Our consumer lifestyles and affluence-aspiring societies continue to generate mountains of garbage, un-recycled waste and toxic pollutants at alarming rates. This is already a highly disturbing trend in industrialized countries. Making matters worse, developing countries who already find themselves struggling to cope with disposing of increasing amounts of imported consumer items oftentimes play host to the garbage delivered to them from rich countries.
Especially waste materials that are expensive to process and safely handle, such as asbestos, electronic waste even nuclear material, continue to be “disposed of” dumped is the better word, in developing countries. Few of us may have heard of international laws against the shipping of hazardous material, for example the Basel Ban. This agreement that went in to effect in 1998, stipulates that the world’s 29 wealthiest most industrialized nations are banned from exporting all forms of hazardous waste to the less developed nations.
Bringing this dirty topic into the media spotlight is an important step towards cleaning up some of the mess and misery that garbage and waste exporting cause.
In a recent contribution to “Toward Freedom, Michael Fox discussed the “Globalization of Garbage: Following the Trail of Toxic Trash” ( http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1640/1 ). Unsurprisingly, the US is not party to the Basel Ban and fox demonstrates how electronic waste from the USA makes it way to Brazil.
The issue of asbestos export has caught some media attention, in particular with regard to waste-export to India. In a sad and macabre twist of “South-South cooperation;’ Brazil itself turns out to be an international waste exporter. Quoting UN-statistics, it has been reported that India imported roughly 306,000 MT of asbestos in 2006. 152820 MT was imported from Russia, 63980 MT from Canada, 48807 MT from Kazakhstan and 34953 MT from Brazil. (Gopal Krishna, 2007 see: http://www.countercurrents.org/krishna131107.htm ).
However, in the age of globalization, nation states are not necessarily the largest “recipient” of unwanted toxic waste. The global commons, shared by all, governed mostly by unenforceable international law, are taking in huge quantities of waste. In particular the worlds’ oceans have become an enormous dumping field for all kinds of man-made, un-dissolvable garbage. Although hardly “great’ the Great Pacific Garbage Patch floats through the ocean freely. Roughly the size of Texas, the patch contains approximately 3.5 million tons of trash. Shoes, toys, bags, pacifiers, wrappers, toothbrushes, and bottles too numerous to count are only part of what can be found in this accidental dump floating midway between Hawaii and San Francisco.
More info on this incredible environmental disaster can be found at