TECH

The Sad Truth About What Happens To Your Old Gadgets

05/13/2015 04:44 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2016

Your iPhone isn't biodegradable.

Of course, you know that. But what you might not understand is the massive problem that electronic waste represents for our planet. A recent report from United Nations University in Japan declared that about 46 million tons of e-waste -- discarded phones, computer screens, lamps, microwaves and so on -- were produced in 2014 alone. That amount is only expected to rise in the coming years.

Many of these devices have toxic components. A lot of them could be recycled -- but aren't. Instead, they're shipped to developing countries -- sometimes illegally -- where they end up in landfills, waterways or public spaces.

Since 2013, the jarring photographs of the BIT ROT Project have shined a light on the human price of electronic waste, showing civilians digging through potentially dangerous heaps or struggling to dispose the materials themselves.

"If people would be more conscious about where their electronic trash would finish and in which way they are affecting others, poorest peoples' lives, I think they would act more carefully," photographer Valentino Bellini told The Huffington Post via email.

Take a look at the selections below to see the reality for yourself. For more photographs and information, visit the BIT ROT Project.

  • Agbobloshie, Accra, Ghana. Young boys selecting electronic waste in front of the Agbobloshie landfill. The flow of trucks unloading waste from other parts of the city or from Tema Harbor is unstoppable. Tema Harbor is the main commercial seaport in Ghana. It receives shipments from the United States and Europe. ( Valentino Bellini/The Bit Rot Project)
  • Lahore, Pakistan. An electric waste collection area on the outskirts of Lahore. In this place small business owners look for waste that they can use for recycling and waste disposal purposes or that contain precious metals. ( Valentino Bellini/The Bit Rot Project)
  • Odaw River, Accra, Ghana. The Odaw River and the Korle Lagoon are full of every kind of wastes coming from the Agbobloshie landfill and from the nearby slums, where residents use the river like a latrine. A couple hundred meters downhill the river and lagoon flow into the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. The government of Ghana is trying to restore the natural conditions of the lagoon thanks to the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration project. ( Valentino Bellini/The Bit Rot Project)
  • Qingyuan, China. This large courtyard is home to about 30 to 40 families, almost all from rural areas of the province. They rent a small apartment for about 200 yuan (about $ 32) per month. Residents sort through heaps of electronic waste. ( Valentino Bellini/The Bit Rot Project)
  • Agbobloshie, Accra, Ghana. A man stands in the midst of smoke, fire and residual parts of electronic equipment as he burns it to extract some copper contained inside. He will resell the copper later to gain his daily food. ( Valentino Bellini/The Bit Rot Project)
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