60 Minutes Reporter Investigates China's E-Waste Pits, Gets Attacked

Click to view 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley went to Guiyi, China to document the lives of Chinese e-waste workers there. He was able to get footage of what these pits, which process much of the toxic electronic scrap we in the West throw away, look like—despite being jumped by angry e-waste lot owners and nearly having his camera confiscated. The Chinese who attacked them were trying to keep mum on the lucrative business of mining e-waste for valuable components, including gold. According to Jim Puckett, who works for a group working to stop the dumping of toxic materials in third world countries, “A lot of people are turning a blind eye here. And if somebody makes enough noise, they're afraid this [business] is all going to dry up.” The workers who sift through these e-waste pits get paid about $8 a day. They use caustic chemicals and often burn plastic without any type of protection uniform. The air is full of toxins, potable water needs to be trucked in, and pregnancies in the city are six times more likely to be miscarriages. All to deal with the mess we ship over. Sometimes it's easy to forget that even though we don't see our trash anymore, it still exists. And even though America has laws against e-dumping, companies regularly flout them with little repercussion. Pelley's investigation will be broadcast on CBS this Sunday at 7pm. [CBS News via China Digital Times]

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My friend is on vacation in China right now. He just emailed me how most people get around on bicycles and electric scooters. In an effort to practice more environmentally sound transportation habits, gas scooters and small motorcycles have been banned in many areas. But their problems with the disposal of those batteries from the electric scooters will probably but a much larger than ICE emissions or disposal of e-waste. Anyone seen a Prius after a serious crash? It looks like a mini toxic waste dump.