06/27/2016 14:55 EDT | Updated 06/28/2016 18:48 EDT

Some Computers Take A Horrible Journey After They're 'Recycled'

This isn't good.

Ken Christensen, KCTS/EarthFix via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Old computers piled in a junkyard in rural Hong Kong.

A curious thing happens to some gadgets when it's time for them to die.

Even if you do the right thing and bring them to a recycling center for disposal, they might take a twisted -- and dangerous -- path to their final resting place. That's because recycling companies in the United States aren't obligated to handle electronic waste responsibly, and some opt to export it to junkyards around the world. Once there, equipment is broken down and harvested of valuable components -- a process sometimes handled by undocumented workers at great personal risk.

The Basel Action Network, a nonprofit group fighting against toxic exports, recently unveiled research detailing how this happens. Until the law changes in the United States, your options for responsible electronics disposal are severely limited.

Here's what can happen to your old gear today: