Qingyuan City in Guangdong Province has been a center for dismantling and recycling scrap metal for the past 20 years. Longtang town, located about 20 kilometers away from the city center, is a major hub. This small town with just 100,000 houses has more than 1000 informal e-waste “break and burn” plants, which employ at least 50,000 people, roughly a quarter of the population. These informal operations release countless toxic compounds including lead, mercury and cadmium.
Pure Earth has worked to develop a health standard for the industry, monitor pollutants and explore different disposal technologies. The project included looking at plant layout and arrangement, safety distance, occupational health, pollution prevention and control facilities and technology standards, as well as environmental management and planning.
The information researched through this study is being used to develop best management practices for the sector. The stakeholder group made up of companies, local government agencies and importers and led by the Southern China Institute of Environmental Sciences is working with Provincial officials to build regulatory capacity. This project continues to engage the informal sector, in hopes of reducing occupational exposures amongst subsistence operators.
To ensure success, Pure Earth worked with local groups, including trade associations and e-waste recyclers, and has established a partnership with Guangdong University of Technology on the project.