Greenpeace China shame tech giants with e-waste mountain
Chinese Greenpeace activists set up an E-waste sculpture at the China International High-tech Exhibition in Beijing to shame the companies attending the expo, May 2005. [China photos/Getty Images]
Featured Documentaries

Death by Design

An investigation into the deadly health and environmental costs of the electronics industry.

Editor’s note: This film is no longer available online.

Consumers love – and live on – their smartphones, tablets and laptops. A cascade of new devices pours endlessly into the market, promising even better communication, non-stop entertainment and instant information. The numbers are staggering.

The cell and smartphone industries have saturated the market; in 2015, it was estimated that 98 percent of all US citizens aged between 18 – 29 years owned a mobile phone. A staggering 86 percent owned smartphones. By 2020, four billion people will have a personal computer. Five billion will own a mobile phone.

But this revolution has a dark side, hidden from most consumers.

In an investigation that spans the globe, filmmaker Sue Williams investigates the underbelly of the electronics industry. What was uncovered tells an entirely different story to the falsified “clean industry” reputation promoted by the global electronics industry and the semi-conductor industry.

Even the smallest devices can have deadly environmental and health costs that are not only immediate but can span generations of workers who are still suffering the effects of a band-aid culture. 

From the intensely secretive factories in China, to a ravaged New York community and the hi-tech corridors of Silicon Valley, the film tells a story of environmental degradation, of health tragedies, and the fast-approaching tipping point between consumerism and sustainability.

Exploring the environmental costs of the electronics industry