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The Railway River in the industrial zone of Songjiang, outside of Shanghai, has been nicknamed the “milky river” by the locals since Riteng, a subsidiary of Casetek, started operations in the area about two years ago. Casetek is, among other things, a manufacturer that produces Apple iPad casings. However, Apple is the company’s main customer.
A local worker said that the river turns white after the factory discharges its waste water and this can happen as often as once a week. Prior to the factory opening “there were fish and shellfish in the river that we used to eat. But now there are no fish at all,” said He Yinfang, an employee of the industrial park’s waste water treatment station.
The Songjiang district environmental protection bureau has summoned Riteng to a hearing to explain the situation. Casetek says that the discharge was from the “Chinese new year annual cleaning” meaning that the discharge is not a part of their usual manufacturing process and that this was “a mistake that staff made” during cleaning.
However, Liu Fengqiang, deputy director of the Songjiang district environmental protection bureau, is less than happy with this explanation. He said that the pollutants came from water used during the cutting and polishing process at the plant, and not from cleaning. This would mean that the discharges were not from the annual cleaning and instead stem from “a problem in their management,” said Fengqinag.
Should Apple bear at least part of the responsibility of making sure its various international suppliers are complying with local environmental regulations? Or, does the burden rest solely with the countries in which these manufacturers are located? What if Apple was to “vote with its feet” and find another manufacturer that would comply with environmental regulations? Would you be willing to pay more for Apple’s products if you knew that was the company’s policy?
Source: Financial Times