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ONLY in China

Mountain of Waste

The city of Guiyu is home to 5,500 businesses devoted to processing discarded electronics, known as e-waste. According to local websites, the region dismantles 1.5 million pounds of junked computers, cell phones and other devices a year.

The niche industry employs tens of thousands of people, many of them in small, family-run workshops.

The ewaste is mined for the lead, gold, copper and other metals that are found in the circuit boards, wiring, chips and other parts of electronic devices. In this photo, a worker heats a computer board on a steel surface to remove the computer chips soldered into it.

Black Water
Much of the waste from the work, particularly the ash from the burning of coal, is dumped into city's streams and canals, poisoning the wells and groundwater.

Huge Supply
Almost 80% of the discarded electronics come from overseas, including the United States.

Guiyu — and places like it in India and Africa — fluorish because it is far cheaper to break down e-waste there than it is in the developing world, where companies must follow strict guidelines.

According to Guiyu's own website, the e-waste business generates $75 million a year for the town.

Circuit boards, which can contain tiny amounts of gold and silver, are treated with acid baths.

Health reports from the region say that Guiyu's children suffer from an extremely high rate of lead poisoning.

Piled Up
A worker throws a computer casing onto a pile.

Hard Work
According to reports from nearby Shantou University, Guiyu has the highest level of cancer-causing dioxins in the world and an elevated rate of miscarriages.

A worker hauls phone casings on a tricycle. Despite the dangers it presents, the e-waste business in Guiyu continues to thrive.

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