The Chinese city of Guiyu, in Guangdong province, is famous for one reason: It is the world’s largest dumping ground for electronic waste.
The city, with a population of 150,000, receives some 15,000 metric tons of waste every day.
In addition to devastating effects on the environment, the massive quantities of electronic waste are harmful to the residents of Guiyu, most of whom work in the recycling industry.
Many of the workers toil away in poorly ventilated workshops with little or no protective gear, according to Reuters. And children who live there have “abnormally high levels of lead in their blood,” a research from Southern China’s Shantou University found, Reuters reported.
Reuters photographer Tyrone Siu recently visited the city to document how its residents lived. Keep scrolling to see what life is like in the world’s largest e-waste dump.
Guiyu employs thousands of people to recycle the truckloads of electronic waste that arrive daily, including hard drives, mobile phones, and computers from around the world, according to Reuters. Here, a recycling factory is seen in the distance.
The electronic waste is sent to Guiyu from countries all over the world, including the US. In many cases, it's less expensive to send the defunct products to China than to recycle them in an environmentally safe way.
In the past, most of the e-waste was imported into Guiyu from other countries. But as China's population has grown wealthier and electronics have become widespread, more of the waste now comes from within the country.
China now produces 6.1 million metric tons of e-waste a year, according to Reuters. It is second only to the US, which produces 7.2 million metric tons annually.
In Guiyu, workers are tasked with breaking down the discarded electronics to salvage the valuable metals inside. They include gold, copper and aluminium.
As a result, large amounts of pollutants are released into the air and rivers nearby, contaminating local water supplies. Here, a polluted river flows past a workshop used for processing the plastic components.
'The stench of burnt plastic envelops the small town, while some rivers are black with industrial effluent,' according to Reuters. A 2009 study found that 80% of Guiyu's children had high levels of lead in their blood, The Telegraph reported.
In addition to health issues, the pollutants in the air have devastated nearby farmland. Here, buffalo graze near a recycling shop.
Motor tricycles are used to transport electronic waste to one of the many small workshops for recycling.
There are around 5,000 government-managed recycling centres in the city. Below is a top-down view of a worker distributing electronic waste.
Plastic circuit boards are melted down to salvage bits of valuable metal. Here, circuit boards lie inside a home, waiting to be recycled.
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