Dongxiaokou village, China
By Kim Kyung-Hoon
Dongxiaokou village lies just on the outskirts of Beijing, but a trip there does not really offer a pleasant escape from the city centre. For Dongxiaokou is no ordinary village: it is a hub for rubbish.
For years, the area has been home to people who make their living by collecting and recycling electrical and electronic waste – from abandoned air-conditioners to fridges and TV sets. Several hundred families work to gather this “e-waste” from people in wealthy, downtown Beijing.
No one knows the exact number of people involved because many are migrant workers who don’t have licenses for their recycling businesses or permanent residency permits through China’s “hukou” system. They live on the margins in more senses than one, and as summer approached I went to document their lives.
When I arrived, I found the yards of the small tenement houses filled with stacks of abandoned air-conditioners. Villagers take apart these broken units and fix them, then hand them over to wholesale dealers who usually sell the machines to new owners in other rural provinces.
E-waste that cannot be recycled has a different destination: it is simply sold as scrap, flogged for 1RMB (16 cents) per kilogram after being dismantled by the recycler’s hammer and axe.