The town of Guiyu in southern China's Guangdong province is one of the world's largest electronic waste dump sites. Tens of thousands of people work in about 5,000 workshops, processing hard drives, mobile phones, computer screens and computers imported from around the globe.

guiyu electronic waste China
Workers dismantle CD players at a workshop in GuiyuTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
Workers unload old computers, fax machines and printers in GuiyuTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
Motorised tricycles carrying electronic waste trundle towards a recycling workshop in GuiyuTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
Old keyboards and other items of electronic waste spill out of a truck in GuiyuJohannes Eisele/AFP

Many of the workers work in poorly ventilated workshops with little protective gear. Circuit boards are melted down to salvage bits of valuable metals, such as gold, copper and aluminium. As a result, huge amounts of pollutants are released into the air and nearby river, contaminating local water supplies, devastating farm harvests and damaging the health of residents.

The stench of burning plastic envelops the small town, while the waterways are black with industrial effluent. According to research conducted by Southern China's Shantou University, Guiyu's air and water are heavily contaminated by toxic metal particles. As a result, children living there have abnormally high levels of lead in their blood, the study found.

guiyu electronic waste China
A polluted river flows past a workshop that is used for recycling electronic waste in GuiyuTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
A polluted river flows past a workshop used for processing plastic componentsTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
Old mobile phone casings are discarded inside a workshopTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
Hundreds of compact disc players destined for recycling are seen at a workshopTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
A worker distributes electronic waste at a government-managed recycling centreTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
Circuit boards are scattered inside a home in GuiyuTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
A child's tricycle is seen on a pile of circuit boards at a workshop in GuiyuTyrone Siu/Reuters
guiyu electronic waste China
Workers dismantle electronic items at a workshop in GuiyuJohannes Eisele/AFP
guiyu electronic waste China
Women dismantle old remote controlsJohannes Eisele/AFP

While most of the electronic waste was once imported into China, much more now comes from within the country as its wealth increases. China now produces 6.1bn kg of e-waste a year, second only to the US with 7.2bn.

In 2014, the world dumped around 41.8bn kg of e-waste – mostly fridges, washing machines and other domestic appliances, according to a UN report. At present rates, the 50bn kg level could be reached by 2018.