Did anyone see “60 Minutes” last night? They did a segment called, “The Wasteland” where they investigated recycling materials being illegally imported to a small town in Hong Kong, China. The materials are known as “e-waste”, or obsolete computers and electronics.
This “e-waste” is loaded with lead, cadmium, chromium, polyvinylchlorides, and mercury which are all known to cause brain damage, kidney disease, cancers, and mutations. Alan Hershkowits from the Natural Resources Defense Council stated that, “e-waste is the fastest growing component of the municipal waste stream world wide.” He went on to explain that we throw out 130,000 computers every day in the United States alone and we throw out 100 million cell phones per year.
A total of 43 recycling companies in the United States have been investigated by the US government for illegally importing “e-waste” to China. At a specific recycling center there, thousands of farmers work for $8.00 a day and suffer with burnt hands and lungs because of the toxic substances they come in contact with. They methods they use for extracting valuable materials, such as gold, are extremely hazardous. When asked why they continue with these jobs, they answered that the pay was good so they wont give it up. How often have we heard of other situations like this?
All of us who recycle think we’re doing the right thing, and we are. But where your carefully sorted trash goes after you hand it off is perhaps unknown – it just may be to a small town in China, polluting their land instead and harming the innocent people around it.