China Targets Rising Mountain of High-Tech Junk
BEIJING China has issued rules to reduce the country's rising mountain of discarded computers and other electronics by telling manufacturers, retailers and users to take responsibility for high-tech junk.
The State Environmental Protection Administration said a new policy issued on its Web site (www.zhb.gov.cn) on Wednesday would encourage "polluter responsibility" for electronic waste.
"Our country's volume of discarded domestic appliances and electronic products has grown rapidly for years on end," an unnamed official said in the announcement.
"The scatterered, backward handling of electronic junk in family workshops is a serious threat to our fragile environment and human health".
The official targeted illegal imports of discarded computers and other often toxic digital refuse from rich countries.
China has been a massive importer of discarded computers, screens, circuit boards and other equipment from the United States and other wealthy economies according to a 2002 report by the Basel Action Network, a toxic trade watchdog.
Thousands of workers in coastal towns in southern China have made a living by dismantling equipment to salvage reusable parts in small workshops, often risking exposure to toxic chemicals without protective clothing.
Beijing has repeatedly sought to ban the high-tech junk imports, but an underground trade has continued, environmental groups say.
Since 2003, China itself has produced 1.1 million tons of electronic waste annually, including 5 million TV sets, 4 million refrigerators, 5 million computers, and over 10 million mobile phones, according to a Xinhua news agency report last year.
Under the new rules, manufacturers will be encouraged to recycle and extend the working life of components, offer information about toxins on the products, and look for non-toxic replacements for current technology.
But the announcement did not lay out any penalties for companies that violate the rules, which it said were a "guiding technical document".