More and more people are seeking new design and new functioned electronic goods. In Korea more than fifteen million mobiles are thrown away a year and the situation of other electronic goods are not so different. Then, where all the old machines and trashes are going to?
A village of Guangzhou, China. Hugely stacked trashes are all refused electronic goods. The village even looks like a huge refuse dump.
Interview - ‘The environment is getting worse. You can see the trashes anywhere you go. It's like trash castle.'
Interview - ‘They (Westerners) are dumping the unusable electronic goods to China. The trashes are polluting the ocean and soil. Because there are mercury and lead in the trashes.'
The electronic goods designed for better life of human is actually leading them to worse life in this small village of Guangzhou.
Guangzhou, the third largest trading city in China following Beijing and Shanghai, has been connecting Hong Kong, Macao and mainland and rapidly growing economically.
The Guangzhou port, the first special economic zone in China, is always busy with unloading many containers coming from worldwide.
Some of the containers are actually full of electronic trashes. At a quiet spot few miles away from the port, we can see people are busy to unload something from a container. They are all old electronic goods like computers and television set.
According to UN's report, there are fifteen millions tons of electronic trashes in worldwide and seventy percents of them are sent to China. The most of trashes are originally coming from advanced countries. By sending them to other countries, they could save lots of money and also avoid the environmental restriction of their own countries.
The lorries filled with old computers and TV sets stopped at Guiyu, Guangzhou. As soon as we arrived Guiyu, we could see many bags hugely stacked at each house. The bags are full of electronic trashes. The whole village is just like a big refuse dump. While we stayed the town, we could see at least thirty lorries came to the town.
As soon as the lorries unloaded the trashes, the workers started disassemble the machines. They were just bare hand without any safe guard.
Q. How many hours do you work a day?
A. Ten hours.
Q. I cannot see any safe device. Isn't it dangerous?
A. Yes, it is. I am actually worried about my health, but I need to make money. What more can I do?
The wage for ten hours labour is only about one pound. It is much less then five pounds, the average wage for daily job.
Half ot the workers are actually ex-farmers came to the city to find jobs. The cheap labour is actually encouraging the disposal industry of the village.
◎ Rye Yoon / Green Peace China :
‘According to Government's statistical data, about one hundred twenty thousands local people and one hundred thousand people from other town are working for this industry.'
The trading could be done under the contract that the old machines should be used in China as they are for the secondhand goods, not for the disassembly. So, the works being done in this village are absolutely illegal. The crews disguised themselves as wholesale dealer and approached one factory. The wire, semiconductor chips and other part were sorted by kind and stacked.
◎ Manager : ‘We are disassembling all the parts and selling them one by one, not a whole machine.
You see this part. There is gold inside. You can extract the gold from it.'
The work place and process he showed us after the explanation was quite shocking. While the workers were heating the bottom of main boards of computers to extract microchips, the smoke with bad smell was coming up constantly and it was also smarting eyes.
Q. It smells very bad. Does it make you feel pain in your body?
A. Yes, it does. But I cannot do anything. You should adopt yourself to the pain.
Fans and windows are only device for the ventilation. They have nothing to protect themselves from the harmful air. The smoke coming from the burner is actually lead gas. When people inhale the lead gas, the lead accumulates inside human body and gives fatal harm to brain cell.
◎ a worker : ‘The smoke is too strong to breathe. I feel dizzy and cannot seat any longer.'
The toxic gas is not only problem. The plastics and glasses from the machines are left anywhere and burned without any concern. The smoke filled with toxic chemicals spread all over the village and the ashes run through the river. People told us that most of old people and children of the village are suffering from respiratory ailments or skin disease.
A young guy from Sichuan said that he got strange bruise and hurt all over his body after starting working for incinerator.
◎ Xai / former incinerating worker :
‘The bruise was very small at first just like a mosquito sting, but it was getting bigger and bigger. It was no use of applying plaster. It is now too itching to sleep.
He tried medical treatment but it was not working. The symptom was getting worse and his colleagues were in similar situation.
◎ Xai / former incinerating worker :
‘I was not only person quit the job after getting sick. My colleagues also got sick after two or three years working in there and stop working.'
His daily wages was about five US dollar. It was not so bad for him, but he could not bear the smoke anymore. He is now driving a carrier bike.
The pollution of the river was also very serious. If they want to have proper drinking water, they should buy the water carried from Nanjing area, thirty kilometres away from Guiyu.
Many people, however, are still using subterranean water for the farming and drinking, and they are in danger of metal poisoning.
In 2005, Santou medical school and an international environment organization had a medical examination for Guiyou people and the result was much worse than they expected.
More than 80 percents of Guiyou children were poisoned by zinc. The content of copper and lead in their blood was also much more than children living other areas. The metal poisoning is well known for their fatal threatening for the health of human body, especially for the children. If they are exposed to heavy metals like lead or copper, it can cause serious disorder and lesion.
◎ Hujian / Professor, Santou Medical School :
‘The metals retard physical and psychological development. It can cause various disorder.'
As the people are becoming aware the problem of electronic trash, Chinese government started regulating. America, the world biggest trash exporter, however, is legalizing the trash export and the traders of developed countries and China are seeking more profits. In this situation, the regulation of Chinese government seems not enough. We need to find a more radical way to solve the problem.
◎ Rye Yoon / Green Peace China :
‘The fundamental reason of this problem is the electronic trashes with lots of toxic and its pollution. The multinational corporations producing the goods are all responsible for the problem. They must be concerned about the toxic inside their goods and find a way to reduce them.'
We should be concerned that the old machines we thrown away without any concern can be threatening other people's life in Asia or Africa.