Photographers' Blog

Living on e-waste

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.

A waste recycle worker looks around a broken piano which he recently picked up from the street at the yard of his tenement house at Dongxiaokou village in Beijing May 14, 2014. This village is known as Beijing's biggest site for the disposal and recycling of electronic waste and it has been the home of E-waste collectors and recyclers for a decade.    REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA)

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.

A woman dismantles a broken air-conditioner to sell its parts as scraps at her tenement house at Dongxiaokou village in Beijing May 14, 2014. This village is known as Beijing's biggest site for the disposal and recycling of electronic waste and it has been the home of E-waste collectors and recyclers for a decade.    REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon (CHINA)

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.

Scouring Madrid’s trash for images

Street cleaners of Madrid went on strike as a measure to stop the dismissal of 1134 workers, about 20% of the staff. Below three Madrid-based photographers discuss their experience covering the strike.

By Susana Vera

Madrileños express their love for their city with the local saying, “From Madrid to heaven, and in heaven a little window from which to see it.” For 13 days, though, no one in Madrid seemed to be paying much attention to the sky above their heads, it was the ground they were most concerned about.

For almost a fortnight litter overflowed many of the city’s bins, turning pavements into obstacle courses. Pedestrians watched every step they took, fearful that food waste might make them slip and fall. Drivers competed with garbage bags for parking space for their vehicles. For once, the ever-present weather conversation was replaced by rubbish disgust as the city’s number one small talk topic.