"The Wasteland"

60 Minutes Follows America's Toxic Electronic Waste As It Is Illegally Shipped To Become China's Dirty Secret

This is a story about recycling - about how your best intentions to be green can be channeled into an underground sewer that flows from the United States and into the wasteland.

CBS Wasteland Video
Play CBS Video "The Wasteland"
Where does all the electronic refuse our society generates end up? Some of it is shipped illegally from the U.S. to China, reports Scott Pelley, where it is harming the environment and people.

Computers may seem like sleek, high-tech marvels. But what’s inside them? What are they hiding?

  • Lead
  • Cadmium
  • Mercury
  • Chromium
  • Polyvinyl Chlorides

All of these materials have known toxicological effects that range from brain damage to kidney disease to mutations to cancers.

As a nation, we throw out about 130,000 computers every day in the United States.

Most folks want to do the right thing, expecting that their waste be recycled in state-of-the-art facilities that exist here in America.

But really, there's no way for them to know where all of this is going. The recycling industry is exploding and, as it turns out, some so-called recyclers are shipping the waste overseas.

Watch the video and see how one such “Green” recycler is caught sending container that started in Denver was just one of thousands of containers on an underground, often illegal smuggling route, taking America's electronic trash to the Far East.

"Is it legal to import all of these computer monitors into Hong Kong?"

"No way. It is absolutely illegal, both from the standpoint of Hong Kong law but also U.S. law and Chinese law. But it's happening,"


  • Dumping toxic wastes and pollutants in developing nations
  • Contaminating drinking water due to the leaded glass and cathode ray tubes.
  • Contributing to the poverty and disease of millions.
  • Contributing to the Sweatshop labor in foreign lands.
  • Destroying farmlands and Earths natural beauty

Are you informed? What can happen if we turn a blind eye to our E-waste?