Roughly one-third of America’s recycled electronics get exported. However, drop-off centers in the U.S. don’t always know exactly where this material ends up. According to the Basel Action Network, more than 90% ultimately ends up somewhere in Asia. They call it “e-waste recycling, ” but what happens inside Asia’s underground scrapyards looks more like crude alchemy. Men and women – faces swaddled in cloth, hunch over steel furnaces. They melt down electronic guts ripped out of laptops and TVs. Under intense heat, gold and copper fused to circuit boards get soft and runny — and can be scraped into basins full of scalding, metallic sludge. One study published by the United Nations suggests that the job is sometimes fatal and that many become sick and are forced to live with long-term illnesses.
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