Your Old Computer May Be Headed for Thailand

Electronic trash once bound for China is now landing in Southeast Asia
By Janet Cromley,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2018 5:36 PM CDT
World's E-Waste Is Piling Up in Thailand
A factory processing electronic waste is visited by police in Lat Krabang, outside Bangkok, Thailand on Thursday, May 24, 2018. Police have raided several factories near Bangkok that allegedly were processing illegally imported electronic waste in a sign that China’s crackdown on waste recycling is...   (Royal Thai Police via AP)

One of the most popular tourist destinations in the world has become "a new dumping ground for scrap electronics," as Reuters puts it. At a shipping port south of Bangkok, Thailand, police on Tuesday displayed seven shipping containers filled with more than 150 tons of discarded computer and game console parts and other e-waste from Hong Kong, Singapore, and elsewhere. “Electronic waste from every corner of the world is flowing into Thailand,” a police official said at the news conference. Last year, China told the World Trade Organization that it was banning overseas trash, an action that analysts believe is causing e-waste—which is rife with health hazards thanks to toxins including lead and mercury—to be re-routed to Southeast Asia. China's state media last year estimated that in 2016 the country took in 70% of the world’s e-waste.

Last week, Thai police raided several factories near Bangkok accused of illegally importing and processing e-waste and found nearly 100 tons of it: mountains of old computers, mobile phones, and other items, the AP reports. "These factories have not received permission to operate and will be closed pending further investigation," a ministry official said. Workers at the factories were reportedly handling the toxic e-waste while wearing only cloth gloves and face masks for protection, notes Fortune. Officials and environmentalists are alarmed. “After China’s ban, Thailand could become one of the biggest dumping grounds for e-waste,” says the director of Ecological Alert and Recovery Thailand. Thai officials are scrambling to ramp up site inspections to stem the tide of electronic waste; another 10 factories are due to be inspected by June 15. (More on China's policy here.)

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