Archivo de la etiqueta: China

The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150402-the-worst-place-on-earth

From where I’m standing, the city-sized Baogang Steel and Rare Earth complex dominates the horizon, its endless cooling towers and chimneys reaching up into grey, washed-out sky. Between it and me, stretching into the distance, lies an artificial lake filled with a black, barely-liquid, toxic sludge.

Dozens of pipes line the shore, churning out a torrent of thick, black, chemical waste from the refineries that surround the lake. The smell of sulphur and the roar of the pipes invades my senses. It feels like hell on Earth.

Welcome to Baotou, the largest industrial city in Inner Mongolia. I’m here with a group of architects and designers called the Unknown Fields Division, and this is the final stop on a three-week-long journey up the global supply chain, tracing back the route consumer goods take from China to our shops and homes, via container ships and factories.

You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs. In 2009 China produced 95% of the world’s supply of these elements, and it’s estimated that the Bayan Obo mines just north of Baotou contain 70% of the world’s reserves. But, as we would discover, at what cost?

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Anatomy of a Myth: the World’s Biggest E-Waste Dump Isn’t.

http://shanghaiscrap.com/2015/06/anatomy-of-a-myth-the-worlds-biggest-e-waste-dump-isnt/

Let’s start with two photographs.

The first was shot by me in China’s Hunan Province. It shows a warehouse that contains roughly 5,000 old locally-collected televisions awaiting recycling. This photo only captures a portion of what is a big inventory, and a big operation. Every day more arrive. Most people outside of China have never heard of this place, mostly because it is indoors, and difficult for journos and activists to gain access to.

HV2

Next, a photo tagged “e-Waste – field of computers” that I came across while looking at a Google map of Agbogbloshie, a suburb of Accra, Ghana that everyone from the Guardian to Motherboard has called the world’s “biggest” or “largest” e-waste dump.

Cavanos

There’s nothing good or right in the Agbogbloshie photo. The pollution it depicts is nasty. But if you can get past the shock and evaluate the volume of e-waste in the image, it’s not much – especially compared to what we see in the China photo. Indeed, despite the parade of Agbogbloshie slideshows posted by media outlets over the years, there’s a curious dearth of images showing large volumes of e-waste at the site. Rather, the genre is almost exclusively devoted to pictures of laborers, oftentimes not even processing waste – see this useless and exploitative New York Times slideshow, or this more recent one from Motherboard. My long-standing suspicion has been that there aren’t any great volumes of e-waste at Agbogbloshie, and that most of the journalists and photographers who go there – having had no experience with developing world recycling – document their shock, but not what’s actually happening, frankly because they don’t know better.

This matters. Agbogbloshie has become a global symbol for what’s alleged to be a vast and growing environmental problem: the export of e-waste from the developed world to West Africa. Yet in recent years, academic and UN-sponsored research has shown that the problem is far more complex – and, in all respects, smaller – than what’s being depicted. In other words – we’re not talking about the world’s largest e-waste dump.

So what I’m going to do is show how somebody with actual experience reporting in and around the global recycling industry – especially in the developing world – looks at Agbogbloshie. My background is that of a journalist who has been writing about and photographing the industry for 15 years, and has visited hundreds of recycling facilities, especially in the developing world. In March and April, I visited Accra.

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E-waste inferno burning brighter in China’s recycling capital

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/25368882/e-waste-inferno-burning-brighter-in-chinas-recycling-capital/

E-waste inferno burning brighter in China s recycling capital
E-waste inferno burning brighter in China’s recycling capital

Guiyu (China) (AFP) – Mountains of discarded remote controls litter the warehouse floor. In a dimly-lit room, women on plastic stools pry open the devices, as if shucking oysters, to retrieve the circuitry inside.

In a narrow alley a few blocks over, a father and son from a distant province wash microchips in plastic buckets. Men haul old telephones and computer keyboards by the shovelful off a truck.

Some items will be refurbished and resold, others will be stripped for components or materials such as copper or gold.

Business is booming in the Chinese town of Guiyu, where the world’s electronic waste ends up for recycling — and is set to get even better.

But the industry has a heavy environmental cost. Electronic remnants are strewn in a nearby stream, and the air is acrid from the burning of plastic, chemicals and circuitboards.

Heavy metal contamination has turned the air and water toxic, and children have high lead levels in their blood, according to an August study by researchers at Shantou University Medical College.

Much of the e-waste that passed through Guiyu over the past few decades came from outside China.

Western countries are now making a greater effort to process their own e-waste, but Chinese domestic supply will soon be more than enough to step into any breach, campaigners say.

China’s surging economy has transformed the country into a consuming power in its own right — it is now the world’s largest smartphone market — and use of electronic devices has soared.

“Before, the waste was shipped from other parts of the world coming into China — that used to be the biggest source and the biggest problem,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, one of China’s foremost environmental NGOs.

“But now, China has become a consuming power of its own,” Ma said. “We have I think 1.1 billion cell phones used, and the life of our gadgets has become shorter and shorter.”

“I think the wave is coming,” he added. “It’s going to be a bigger problem.”

– ‘This cannot be allowed to go on’ –

China currently generates 6.1 million metric tonnes of e-waste a year, compared with 7.2 million for the US and 48.8 million globally, according to the United Nations University’s Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative.

But while US e-waste production has increased by 13 percent over the past five years, China’s has nearly doubled, setting the Asian giant on track to overtake the US as the world’s biggest source as early as 2017.

Nowhere are the profit and environmental toll of e-waste recycling more on display than in Guiyu in the southern province of Guangdong, where some 80,000 of 130,000 residents work in the loosely-regulated industry, according to a 2012 local government estimate.

More than 1.6 million tonnes of e-waste pass through Guiyu each year, with recycling worth 3.7 billion yuan ($600 million) annually and attracting migrants from near and far.

“This work is tiring, but the salary is okay compared with the work in town,” said a 30-year-old surnamed Ma, who left a salesman’s job to dismantle electronics. “You can make 4,000 or 5,000 yuan ($650 to $815) a month.”

At the same time, the town has made worldwide headlines for the devastating health impact of its tainted environment.

“People think this cannot be allowed to go on,” said Leo Chen, 28, a financial worker who grew up in Guiyu.

The situation was better than a decade ago, he said, following authorities’ interventions, but the effects of years of pollution remain.

“In my memory, in front of my house, there was a river. It was green, and the water was very nice and clear,” he said. “Now, it’s black.”

– ‘Morally complicated’ –

Lai Yun, a Greenpeace researcher who has often visited Guiyu, said that while Beijing has tightened regulations enforcement is often lax, and the bottom line is that development cannot be obstructed.

“From the government’s perspective, e-waste gathering and processing is important for the local economy,” Lai said. “Research has shown that 80 percent of households are involved in this work. So, if they don’t expand this industry, these residents will need some other kind of employment.”

Central authorities including China’s powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) have invested heavily in Guiyu’s recycling industry, pointed out Adam Minter, author of “Junkyard Planet”, on the economics of the global scrap industry.

The overall picture was mixed, he said.

“There is an environmental good happening there — they’re extending the life span of usable components, they’re pulling things out and recycling them, or sending them to Korea and Japan, something that’s very expensive to do in the US and the EU,” he said.

“Yet they do it in a way that’s not always good for human health and the environment,” he added. “Recycling is a morally complicated act.”

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Baidu partners with U.N. to tackle e-waste in China

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2466260/baidu-partners-with-un-to-tackle-ewaste-in-china.html?utm_content=buffer8a18c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Baidu partners with U.N. to tackle e-waste in China

Chinese search engine Baidu and the United Nations Development Program are hoping to streamline the recycling of e-waste in China with a new app that can help users easily sell their old electronics for cash.

The Web-based app called “Baidu Recycle Station” launched Monday as part a new joint lab established by the Chinese company and the U.N. group. The lab will use Baidu’s Internet services and data analytics to develop programs targeted at helping the environment, health care, education and more. Baidu has already been working to analyze data from the Internet for applications as various as forecasting flu outbreaks and predicting the outcome of the World Cup.

In developing the recycling app, Baidu is tackling China’s considerable e-waste problem. The country is the second largest producer of electronic trash, creating over 3.6 million tons of it each year, according to a U.N. study.

The search company hopes the app will help promote legitimate recycling factories that can offer users accurate pricing for old electronics. Many Chinese still rely on local street peddlers who buy old electronics for their valuable metals, Baidu said. But this often leads to the improper disposal of e-waste, resulting in ground and water pollution.

To create the app, Baidu and the U.N. group partnered with Chinese electronics vendor TCL to handle the recycling. Users can upload a photo of their old electronics, receive an estimated price, and then arrange for pick-up from TCL.

The app is already available for users in Beijing and Tianjin, but Baidu will roll out the service to other Chinese cities in the future. The joint lab is also inviting other groups such as the Chinese government, academics and companies to partner with it to develop future projects.

 

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