Third World Waste Problem

Part 1: Developing countries used as dumping grounds for our waste, what are they supposed to do with it?

The problems of waste management are different for the developing world, with their economies being less robust they don’t have any organised means of controlling solid waste. The result in many cases is that garbage in developing countries tends to pile up and to add to the pressure of continuous environmental and medical hazards. So why is it that the developed economies, who have been educating the public about recycling and waste management for years, continue to dump their waste in the third world?

If you visit any waste related new portal, you will see daily reports on the ‘Third World Waste Problem’ and how countries with strong economies continue to dump their waste. Recent news reported on companies exporting unsorted and contaminated waste, or simply abandoning their used goods in countries which are already facing serious health and environmental hazards.

Most developing countries don’t have any organised means of controlling solid waste. Waste created by those living there is rarely collected on a regular basis, regulations vary from country to country and from town to town, and often a small bribe from an apprehended illegal trash dumper will trump enforcement of official regulations. Laws are often not adhered to and the burning of waste and open dumping is allowed.

With the obvious lack of funds preventing municipalities in such countries from being able to create a proper waste management system in the first place or the ability to manage these systems effectively being apparent, why do countries continue to dump their waste in these countries and what could we do to solve the problem?

What do we do in a world overflowing with waste?

In 2010 we produced 3.5 million tonnes of waste per day, by 2100 that amount will triple. Recycling isn’t enough, up to 43% of our plastic waste continues to end up in landfill and up to 20 tonnes ends up in the ocean, creating floating islands made up of waste alone.

We are starting to see certain steps being taken against the dumping of waste in these third world countries, the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility and UN Environment have announced a $15-million initiative to kick off a circular electronics system in Nigeria. Additionally, China banned all imports of waste in 2017 which has prompted more leaders to follow suit, most recently, Malaysian Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has called for a total ban on all waste imports.

News reports this week has also highlighted that Indonesia is sending dozens of containers of waste back to wealthy nations after finding it was contaminated with used diapers, plastic and other materials, adding to a growing backlash in Southeast Asia against being a dumping ground for the developed world’s rubbish.

Steps towards the solution

There are solutions to these problems, for example, in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu the government has turned 1,600 tonnes (5 years’ worth) of plastic waste into pavement for 1,000km of public road. Meanwhile in Rome, waste from overflowing bins are transported to Austria by train daily where 70,000 tonnes of waste will be burnt and converted to electricity – this powers 170,000 Austrian Homes.

The worlds economies can help turn waste into something for the greater good, scientists have said that e-waste could be pulverised into microscopic nanoparticles, this could encourage the public in third world countries to collect recycled goods and trade it in for money. However, a big solution to the problem would be converting waste to energy.

We are seeing more reports on EfW plants being developed worldwide, but in order to ensure we solve the problem of dumping our waste in countries facing terrifying environmental and health hazards it is apparent that we need to do more. All the reports lead to energy-from-waste, because this is the most ecological, cost effective and efficient way to solve the worlds waste problem.

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