The E-Waste Curse
Karachi's poor are forced to live alongside a toxic E-waste dumping ground
Pakistan has become an illegal dumping ground for some of the 50 million tons of e-waste created each year. Karachi's poor earn a living from the toxic detritus, but the vicious cycle of consumption could prove fatal.
In Pakistan, the massive arrival of electronic waste has created an informal substance economy that feeds 150,000 people. The country's poor salvage what they can from the cast-offs of the electronic revolution: copper, steel, brass. Nassir is one who has cashed in on the opportunities found in old cables and hard-drives. "It's a good business. I have more and more work", he says. Yet workers pay the price for a few grams of copper; 4 million people die every year because of electronic waste and recycling workers have the lowest life expectancy in Pakistan. In his recycling shop, Akhbar earns 2€ on a good day. It feeds his family of six, but his health has suffered. "This job is dangerous. It's very toxic". And the toxic legacy is far-reaching - "It's a catastrophe...especially for the children", warns Saba, an activist for the WWF. "They will continue to live here and be poisoned, it's dangerous for them and it's dangerous for the next generations". In our relentlessly consumerist world, can the global poor be saved from the toxic trade in e-waste?