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The Consequences of Global Waste Trade

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In this advanced age of urbanization and industrialization, the volumes of producing wastes are increasing alarmingly. According to The World Bank, 1.3 billion tonnes of waste was generated globally in 2012. Hence making the footprint of one person 1.2 kilograms of waste per day. Nonetheless, at this continuous rate of waste generation, it is predicted that by 2025, this rate will rise to produce 2.2 billion tonnes of waste globally (World Bank Canada, 2018). In order to safely manage waste, all countries must work on their waste management and recycling programs properly. Should countries in the developing world be allowed to dispose, for profit, of toxic wastes, shipped to them from developed countries? No, it should not be allowed. There will be many forthcomings associated with the dumping of toxic waste from developed countries to developing countries.

The imminent effects of this action on the environment and humans will be severe regardless of it creating profit. However, the dumping of toxic wastes can have an impact on the atmosphere, land, water and the humans. It will also cause a lifestyle change amongst the people that reside near such landfills or are dependent on water bodies that are used to dump toxic waste in and most importantly, it will affect the wildlife that is feeding on toxic vegetation and toxic water. Additionally, another argument is that many developing countries do not have solid waste management, e-waste management and even recycling programs to cope up with all the waste. Other key points include the law(s) to stop global waste trade i.e. Basel convention to further prove my point that global waste trade should not be allowed.

Impact on the environment

There are many key points and arguments associated with the disagreement on the allowance of global waste trade for profit. However, the main reason is the impact on the atmosphere of the developing countries. The dumping of toxic waste will add toxicity to the air and can cause people to develop serious health risks.

Subsequently, waste disposal also has an effect on the land and water of the developing countries. According to National Geographic, the waste dumped on land can cause toxicity in the air and also trigger the harmful toxic chemicals to seep into the ground, poisoning the groundwater and making the land infertile and the water unusable (National Geographic, 2009). However, if the waste is dumped in a lake, the toxicity will mainly kill all the marine life. The remainder that survives, may get hunted and humans will not only consume the fish but also consume the toxins such as mercury. People depending on that water source for daily tasks might be left waterless or at a serious health risk if they use that water (National Geographic, 2009).

Although as previously discussed some serious repercussions of the toxicity caused by the waste on human health, let us name some air and water pollution diseases and discuss their biological effects. The following table mentions some air pollution according to the chances of developing them (Jasarevic, Thomas & Osseiran, 2014).

The main disease related to water pollution is diarrhea. According to the World Health Organization, it has caused up to 842 000 deaths per year globally as a result of the lack of safe water drinking. Other diseases include arsenicosis, fluorosis, schistosomiasis, helminthiasis, and sepsis in children (World Health Organization, 2018).

Life Style Changes Amongst Residents

If people occupy an area and waste is dumped in the area, it will inhibit their access to safe land and clean water. This may force them to migrate elsewhere or travel to farther places daily to have access to clean water and clean food or commute daily due to poverty. An article published in Independent (2017), discusses that the lifespan of people living near or in the landfills is 35 years old. One of the many examples of such people is Amish Das, an Indian man living with his three children and wife and wife’s sister’s family in one shack in the middle of the landfill. He wakes up and scans the landfill full of waste to find any food for his family and that is what they feed on. Regrettably, Das lost his youngest 2-year-old daughter to an illness caused by consuming all these toxins from the food they eat. This example portrays that many people are stuck in a cycle of poverty and yet developing countries like India are taking garbage for profit and just dumping it on their land making their own environment toxic (Rachel England, 2017).

Wildlife Threats

Leachate is a byproduct of water that has infiltrated through waste. Leachate infiltrates the ground poisoning the groundwater (Kristianna Weber, 2016). This leads to contaminated water bodies and the wildlife dependent on those waterbodies for survival experience its effects. As mentioned in Silent Springs, one of the effects of Leachate that birds endure is the thinning of eggshells and loss of developing chicks (Rachel Carson, 1962). Nonetheless, WWF’s Living Planet Index (2016) indicates that the main cause of species deterioration is the exploitation of species whereas the second main cause is habitat loss and degradation (World Wildlife Fund, 2016)

Solid, E-Waste Management & Recycling

The Urbanization Series, What A Waste highlights some waste management practices amongst countries belong to various income level rankings. This helps determine the difference in waste management practices in a low-income and middle-income country. In terms of recycling, it is highly unregulated and cost expensive in low-income countries like Pakistan, Kenya, Serbia etc. However, middle-income countries like Mexico, Fiji, Jamaica have regulated recycling programs and use some high technology and processing but the informal sector is still involved but the recycling rates are still quite high (Daniel Hoornweg & Perinaz Bhada-Tata, 2012). Nevertheless, when it comes to solid wastes, low-income countries rarely practice composting due to lack of knowledge and almost never incinerate e-waste because of the high operation costs, leading all the waste to end up in a landfill. Although, middle-income countries practice composting but fail many times because of contamination and operation costs. In terms of incineration of metals and other e-waste, some incinerators are used but such countries still suffer from financial difficulties resulting in some waste being dumped in environmentally controlled landfills (Daniel Hoornweg & Perinaz Bhada-Tata, 2012). This evidence suggests that many under-developed and developing countries do not have proper waste management programs. They must stop taking in waste from other countries and focus on improving their waste management programs. Countries must focus on minimizing plastic, recycling, educating and relying on composting as their main waste controlling practice.

Basel Convention

Once a US ship carrying waste trying to dispose of it on a Haiti beach was forced away. The ship kept cruising and could not dump its waste anywhere leading to most of its waste being dumped in the ocean. This gave rise to the Basel Convention, led by the UN to restrict the global waste trade. It has been in effect since 1992 and has banned the hazardous waste trade to poverty-struck countries (Needhidasan, Samuel & Chidambaram, 2014)

So, is it acceptable for developed countries to dump their waste in developing countries?

In conclusion, it is very clear that there are more disadvantages to global waste trade than advantages. Thus, developing countries must boycott waste from developed countries and focus on improving their economies, educating people about the world they live in and creating sustainable environments. However, in order to not produce 2.2 billion tonnes of waste globally, we must reinforce solid and e-waste management programs around the world, emphasize on recycling and the importance of waste management (World Bank Canada, 2018). We must do this together to save lives, preserve nature, wildlife and rare-earth minerals for our future generations to see and use.

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