Discarded electronic have to go somewhere, and usually somewhere means China. For years environmentalists have decried China’s officially illegal but unofficially flourishing e-waste trade, but thousands of Chinese peasants are still melting wires and motherboards for metal, making scant spending money from greedy entrepreneurs. The results are undrinkable groundwater, lead-filled rivers and rampant air pollution, the AP found.
For Western companies, shipping waste to China is up to 10 times cheaper than disposing of it under Western safety and environmental standards. Importing the waste is banned, but a mere $100 bribe gets a crateful past customs. China’s own industrial boom is adding another million tons of e-waste per year. Legal disposals have cropped up, but struggle to compete with cheaper polluters.