Making and Unmaking of Guiyu: The Global Center of E-waste

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As the industry of electronic devices rapidly develops, the disposal and recycling of e-waste become an issue at stake. Despite the constant effort of both governments and Non-Governmental Organization, exportation to developing countries remains one of the major approaches for the first world to dispose their hazardous e-waste. Developing countries in Asia and Africa are such perfect destinations for e-waste dumping for their cheap labor and the lack of environmental regulation. Without adequate precaution and proper handling guide, human health and environmental integrity are under threat in these areas. China, being the largest electronics manufacture country, aside from dealing with the considerable amount of domestic e-waste, also faces multiple challenges in regulating the importation of e-waste. In addition to discuss the historical background, current situation, and possible future of e-waste trading on a global level, this project focuses on Guiyu, China, a small southern town which is considered one of the largest e-waste centers in the world. Taking Guiyu as an example, this paper aims to reveal the complexity surrounding the disposal and recycling of e-waste and the potential harm on human health of informal recycle activities. Tracing back the history of e-waste trading in Guiyu helps understand the how did the business become dominant industry. The economic and social context and the shared cultural belief of Chaoshan people also play key roles in the local e-waste recycle development. The paper suggests possible upstream and downstream solutions as well. The paper relies on secondary sources including academic journals, local newspaper, and public documents. Visual and audio material such as documentaries and interview footages are also important resources for the project. Related works that had been conducted within the Chinese language sphere are important sources for this project. To combine local perspective in the process of research, the paper largely depends on articles and official reports that are written in Chinese. Due to the difficulty in obtaining reliable and objective report on the result of the industrial park in Guiyu, the future of Guiyu and its e-waste business remains uncertain.





Feng, Yuqiao (2021). Making and Unmaking of Guiyu: The Global Center of E-waste. Capstone project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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