Typhoon slams e-scrap hotspot in China

Typhoon slams e-scrap hotspot in China

By Bobby Elliott, Resource Recycling

A typhoon that struck southern China last week has caused severe flooding and widespread damage in Guangdong province, raising environmental and health concerns in an area known for its intake of end-of-life electronics.  

Typhoon Utor made its way from the Philippines into the southern province of Guangdong and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region last Wednesday. Flooding in the typhoon's wake has led to the death of 70 people in the south, and more deadly flooding has taken place in the northern part of the nation.

The Guangdong cities of Guiyu, Shantou and Puning were hit hardest by the typhoon catastrophe, Shanghai-based journalist Adam Minter told E-Scrap News.

Minter explained that beyond the human disaster, short and long term effects of typhoon Utor could be considerable for the e-scrap industry in China, which is heavily centered in Guangdong and Guiyu, a municipality of 150,000 residents that is located along the coast. According to Minter, the typhoon has shut down e-scrap processing in the region, submerging current e-scrap inventories and putting immediate pressure on the government to resume operations quickly.

The typhoon may also cause health and environmental implications. Concern over the contamination from formal and informal e-scrap processing and other recycling processes in Guangdong has risen in recent years. Due to a host of high-profile news reports and allegations from watchdog groups, Guiyu has become a poster child for irresponsible e-scrap exporting.

Not surprisingly, observers are now worried that raging flood waters could intensify the region's environmental issues. According to Minter, the "greater threat is the effect of floodwaters mixing with soils, groundwater and surface waters contaminated during the past three decades." While there has been no comprehensive study on soil contamination in the area, "in the most intensive processing areas it promises to be considerable," Minter said.

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