CHINA – According to China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), more than 70% the world's electronic waste, or e-waste, is dumped in China.
Because of a lack of mineral resources in China, large quantities of solid waste are imported into the country to be used as industrial raw material and replace mineral resources during production.
The MEP estimates the annual global volume of e-waste to be in excess of 500 million tons and according to official statistics, more than 40 million tons of this solid waste was imported in 2010, with an industrial output value of around US$23.7 billion (RMB150 billion).
The majority of e-waste import activities are based in and around China's main ports of Guangdong, Shanghai and Dalian. However e-waste items - including obsolete computers, batteries, mobile phones, circuit boards, and printers - are prohibited for importation under Chinese law.
Items that are classed as e-waste often contain small amounts of gold, copper, aluminum, silver and other precious metals and plastics that all hold high value for recyclers. But they also contain harmful substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, all of which have the potential to contribute to environmental pollution, and cause many health problems.
The MEP report comes amid calls from environmental groups for the government to strengthen management, and provide technical support and subsidies to qualified enterprises to increase the recovery rate of imported e-waste.
The director of Greenpeace's Pollution Prevention project, Lai Yun, said "the smuggling of e-waste is still rampant because of the high profits associated with recycling the material.
"The combination of strict environmental laws and high labour costs in developed countries is causing more and more e-waste to end up in developing countries, such as China" Lai said.