The Chinese City of Guiyu Was Once A Thriving Farming Town But
Asia’s failure to Close-the-loop may Lead To A Premature Apocalypse. There are tragic tales cropping up around Asia about cities succumbing to the ill-effects of pollution. There’s the rise of smog cities such as Beijing, Xingtai, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur threaten the lifespan and well-being of its citizens. Commercialisation has pushed ethical eco-friendliness to the side and people are paying for it with their lives. Ralph Jennings, a contributor for The Guardian published that the boom in industrialisation and urbanization across several Asian countries is contributing to wide-scale and irreversible pollution.
The most severe case of industrialization is the Chinese city of Guiyu.
What was once a thriving farming town that produced rice and other agricultural commodities for other Chinese cities have turned into a wasteland for electronic waste? The rise in commercialisation by extracting metals and plastics from electronic waste improved the local labour market and the community’s ability to earn an income. However, it has come at a cost to the environment to the point where the town no longer has any fresh water and relies on imported water from nearby towns.
One of the key drivers behind the local town’s pollution is due to the locals ability to extract elements from electronic waste, which can be sold for a profit. Gold that is often soldered onto items such as computer boards or found within the chips on used ink cartridges is melted and extracted to be sold. However, the residue from the extraction process is usually filtered into the local waterways. The hardware waste often gets disposed in landfill and riverbeds.
What is another concern is that most of the waste that the city receives comes from the recycling channel? People that are ethically recycling their used goods put it in a channel that they believe will minimise the impact on the environment. Unfortunately, there are brokers that collect the waste and distribute it unethically in exchange for profit.
The environmental threat doesn’t just lie with the consumer when the product reaches the end of its life. It is also the recycling distribution channel. If recyclers aren’t committed to closing the loop, the entire recycling chain breaks. There’s a need for consumers not only to be aware of the actions that they take with the recycling process but the actions of the suppliers or recycling distributors that they partner with.
In the ink cartridge industry, Williams has sought to partner with OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) who can collect and ethically distribute used ink cartridges when they reach the end of their life-cycle. Consumers also need to be educated on the ethical practices of non-OEM ink cartridges or refills, and how their cheaper financial cost contributes to a more significant environmental cost in the future.
What actions should people take to help close the loop? People should look into partnering with suppliers that are ethical prior to and after the life-cycle of the product. That way, they will know that positive action steps are being taken to close the loop. People should also get educated on the importance of closing the loop to prevent the negative impacts to the environment and how it can impact them directly in terms of their well-being and their quality of life.