Friday, September 3, 2010

Trash in India - Let's import trash!

I had written recently about how Trafigura had illegally dumped tons of petrochemical wastes in Abidjan, the capital of Cote d'Ivoire. Indeed, the so-called "developing nations" have turned into dumping grounds for the so-called "developed nations." Well, here are a few more examples of this, in particular, dealing with India.

The Times of India reported in April about how a port in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu (a state in India) accepts huge shipments of trash from "developed nations," which contain not only recyclables, but more toxic and hazardous wastes as well. Just as in the case of Trafigura, it is cheaper for companies and nations to "export" their trash (and problems) elsewhere than to deal with them at home, because of "stricter" environmental standards, less corruption or what have you:

"But why are the developed nations dumping their garbage on Indian soil? Simply because shipping municipal waste to India is about four times cheaper than recycling it in their own land. While it costs Rs 12,000 to recycle a tonne of rubbish after segregation in Britain, shipping the rubbish to India costs just about Rs 2,800."

What do you think happens when you "recycle" your electronic goods (your e-waste) in the West? You might think that "socially and environmentally responsible companies" that you bought your products from or send your products to will carefully dismantle the products, make sure heavy elements aren't leaked out, and somehow reform the plastics, semiconductor materials, etc. into "new" products. Not really. A lot of e-waste actually ends up being shipped to "developing nations" where "informal" recycling takes place - computers will be smashed, releasing heavy and toxic elements into the ground, air and water, wires will be removed, and the insulation will be melted off by boiling the wires in pots and pans (that people use to cook). This exposes the wires, which will then be recycled or sold for little value. More sadly, however, is that people, men, children and women, sit over these pots and pans, breathing in the noxious fumes. I listened to one story that said that there are more than 20,000 people in the outskirts of Delhi that deal with such waste - informally and dangerously. All of this is in the name of "progress," "style," and "fashion," constantly "needing to upgrade" what we have and leaving behind things we've used. I will be commenting more on this in my next post.

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