Market for illegal e-waste shut down

By Chen Hong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-06-14 06:54

SHENZHEN: A market in Foshan, South China's Guangdong Province, that imported illegal electronic waste products for nine years, was smashed by the local government on Tuesday.

More than 100 law enforcement officials in Dali Town, where the Huafa Electrical Appliance Market is located, sealed off the market about 3 pm and seized several tons of illegal electronic products, including printers, duplicating machines and electrographs, from four warehouses.

The raid was conducted after the market's exposure in the media.

"The government holds a firm attitude in getting rid of illegal goods in markets, and leaves no room for its resurgence," said Kong Xihong, the commander of the raid.

All shops in the market are now forbidden to operate and face water and power cuts if they do, Kong said.

According to a report by China's Central Television Station (CCTV), about 20 containers of imported electronic waste, each weighing 25 tons, were sent to the market daily before the crackdown.

The waste products were mainly sourced from developed countries such as Japan and the United States.

While most of the waste products were sent to illegal treatment factories for extracting raw materials, some were cleaned and reassembled at Huafa and supplied to other markets in China, according to CCTV.

A reassembled printer could be sold for as low as 200 yuan ($26.30) at the Huafa market. The buyer could then sell it at four times the price at other markets.

The Huafa market developed into a one-stop service for the importation of illegal electronic waste, reassembly, wholesale and distribution.

The closure of the market will not stem the importation of illegal electronic waste, according to market observers.

It is estimated that more than 500 million tons of electronic waste are generated each year in developed countries. About 70 percent of it is dumped in China, making it the world's largest destination for electronic waste.

Extracting useful raw materials from waste is harmful and a heavy pollutant, experts said.

In Longtang Town, Qingyuan, located in the northern mountainous region of Guangdong, the handling of imported electronic waste has developed into a major industry.

"Burning electronic waste generates poisonous materials such as lead and mercury. Once land or water is polluted, it cannot be rectified in a century," said He Pinjing, a professor at Tongji University, Shanghai.

"If the situation cannot be rectified in the short term, it will be a disaster not only for Qingyuan, but for the whole province," He said.

(China Daily 06/14/2007 page3)

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