Media Voices Welcomes Greenpeace to the CLC
The latest member of the Child Labor Coalition has taken major steps to combat illegal and abusive e-waste recycling sites.
Greenpeace recognizes the disproportionate effects of Western environmental abuse on disenfranchised communities. In the 90s, the EU, the US and Japan set up e-waste recycling stations domestically. However they were unprepared to deal with the exponentially increasing quantity of e-waste they generated, as well as its hazardous nature. So they began relocating the problem, exporting toxic electronic garbage to non-Westernized countries where worker protection is nonexistent and labor is cheap. In 2014, e-waste from personal electronics like smartphones was estimated to be 3 million metric tons. Less than an estimated 16 percent of global e-waste is recycled.
In affluent countries, electronics recycling takes place in purpose-built recycling plants under controlled conditions. However in Guiyu, China for instance, one of the largest e-waste sites on the planet, there are no such regulations or concern for worker safety. Guiyu employs impoverished migrant laborers and their children to do the dangerous and grueling work of e-waste recycling. Burning plastic releases toxic fumes, poorly ventilated by cramped workspaces. By hand, the workers strip electronics down to the smallest parts, exposed to the hazards of burning toxic metals. Many of the children have lead poisoning. All of these workers live and drink water in the same space used for stripping and dismantling computer parts.
Major electronics firms endorse this abuse by continuing to make products using hazardous chemicals, and exporting their waste to countries incapable of handling it. Greenpeace is currently calling for more responsibly made smartphones, designed to last years, made from non-hazardous materials. They work tirelessly to combat climate change in its most abusive forms internationally, fighting for a global effort to heal the environment.