The final destination of around 70 percent of the world's annual 500 million tons of electronic waste, or e-waste, is China, according to a report by China Business News.
Houbajia village, 3 km from Zhongguancun, in Beijing's Haidian district, is a waste distribution center bustling with activity, yet local villagers have had to be relocated to make space for the centre. [China Business News]
The majority of e-waste import activities are based in and around China's main ports.
The director of Greenpeace's Pollution Prevention project, Lai Yun, said that "the smuggling of e-waste is still rampant because of the high profits associated with recycling the material."
"The combination of strict environmental laws and high labor costs in developed countries is causing more and more e-waste to end up in developing countries," Lai said.
The deputy director of the Chinese Society for Environmental Sciences solid waste committee, Nie Yongfeng, said that e-waste items - including obsolete computers, batteries, mobile phones, circuit boards, and printers - are prohibited for importation under Chinese law.
Items that are classed as e-waste often contain small amounts of gold, copper, aluminum, silver and other precious metals and plastics that all hold high value for recyclers.
But they also contain harmful substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, all of which have the potential to contribute to environmental pollution, and cause many health problems.
Qi Bin, the head of recyclechina.com, a website for trading renewable resources, said that the government should strengthen management, and provide technical support and subsidies to qualified enterprises to increase the recovery rate of imported e-waste.
Because of a lack of mineral resources in China, large quantities of solid waste is imported into the country to be used as industrial raw material and replace mineral resources during production.
According to official statistics, more than 40 million tons of this solid waste was imported in 2010, with an industrial output value of around 150 billion yuan (23.7 billion USD).