If you are someone that thinks that white rice is bad for you because of its high starch content and lack of vitamins and minerals, you may find the following even more difficult to digest. As the technological world seems to have a new application or device on the market before one can figure out how to take an Instagram on their smart phone, have you ever wondered where all of the discarded devices ultimately end up? Many electronics, large and small, begin and end their life in China. In 2011, some 3.62 million tons of electronic waste, or as it is commonly referred to “e-waste,” discarded by Chinese consumers were thrown into landfills.
However, this number is potentially much higher as China imports e-waste from the United States and other Western nations through Hong Kong’s ports, which are exempt from national and international regulations on the importation of e-waste, and also illegally through other ports and nations.
The palatable incentive for importing e-waste is that is a lucrative form of primitive recycling. In what could be considered an electronic mining operation, workers heat circuit boards from devices to extract their computer chips and other precious metals. The most valuable parts of electronics are removed from devices and in turn are purchased in bulk by other companies that refine them to be parts of new electronic devices such as iPhones. There is also the added bonus of the low costs of operation of these electronic chop shops as they do not have to follow the stringent laws that more developed areas of the world must. In Guiyu alone, the redemption of e-waste resulted in a hefty profit of $75 million, not too shabby considering the high prices are the result of consumers discarding their once must have electronic devices.
The trade-offs are the damage done to the environment and the effects that this has on individuals who reside in contaminated areas. Besides the obvious damage done to the air and water, rice farmers do not consume the rice that they produce for fear of how polluted it is. The farmers do not know who consumes their rice and label it as coming from elsewhere than where it was produced.
If you truly want to see that your e-waste in recycled in the most "environmentally friendly" way possible, it would be wise to research recycling companies yourself as some companies such as Executive Recycling were found guilty, quite literally, of simply passing the waste along to be dumped abroad.
If this information has left a bitter after taste in your mouth, simply rinse and strongly consider donating or finding out how to properly recycle that once must-have electronic device that you now realize you never needed.