You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

The Toxic E-waste Racket

Alex Pasternack writes for, The Huffington Post and assorted magazines about the environment and culture.

When a "60 Minutes" film crew recently arrived in Guiyu, the notorious epicenter of China's toxic e-waste recycling racket, they were met by a gang of camera-smashing thugs. Sadly this kind of journalist abuse is par for the course in China. And it's certainly not surprising to see this in a place where toxic chemicals seep into the ground and water, a place with the highest levels of cancer-causing dioxins ever recorded, a place where pregnancies are six times more likely to result in miscarriages, and seven out of ten children there have an excess of lead in their blood.

But scrapyard owners and local officials aren't the only ones eager to keep prying eyes out of the mercury-saddled mess. There are also the suppliers of the toxic equipment: Western recycling companies exporting our garbage to China, against the law (or rather, against weak regulations). "60 Minutes" investigates one of these companies, and notes that it and 42 other American firms were recently caught in a government sting. But considering the economic reasons to recycle our e-waste—130,000 computers are tossed every day in the United States—just as much scrutiny ought to be placed on the electronics companies that make our stuff so toxic to begin with. See more at "60 Minutes" (the segment aired last night):


--Alex Pasternack