Efforts to recycle e-waste safely in China have struggled. Few people bring in waste, because the illegal operators pay more.
"We're not even breaking even," said Gao Jian, marketing director of New World Solid Waste in Qingdao. "These guys pay more because they don't need expensive equipment, but their methods are really dangerous."
Shanghai opened a dedicated e-waste handling center last year, but most residents and companies prefer the "guerrilla" junkers who ride through neighborhoods on flatbed tricycles ringing bells to attract customers, said Yu Jinbiao of the Shanghai Electronic Products Repair Service Association, a government-backed industry federation.
"Those guerrillas are convenient and offer a good price," Yu said, "so there is a big market for them.