India The dumpground for International Waste!

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via ANKWD - Welcome to the gateway of Citizen Journalism! by divya on 9/17/08


You must have heard of garments, oil, and food items being exported to India but have you heard of waste being shipped to our country? Yes, that’s true. No matter how shocking this might sound, it’s a reality. Household waste collected weekly across Britain for recycling is being shipped and dumped in India, according to an investigation by ITVs ‘Tonight programme’. Nowadays, the manufacturing, consumption and disposal of goods are geographically separated like never before. Production takes place in one country; products are consumed in another, and disposed in a third.

UK council has asked all the households to carefully separate waste into different categories: plastics, metal, paper and glass so that they all can be recycled.  This has been done in their effort to “go green” and improve the environment. European Union law bans sending waste abroad for dumping but allows it to go overseas if it has already been separated and recycled, according to the Sunday Mirror.  But the tragedy is that the waste is being dumped into India without being recycled. Unfortunately, a relatively poor country like India is a cost effective target for more developed nations. It costs up to 148 pounds to recycle a ton of rubbish once it is separated but only 40 pounds to ship it to India.

ITV’s Tonight programme found British waste, including children’s report cards and a St George’s flag, buried in farmland wells near the migration path of wild elephants in the state of Tamil Nadu. The rubbish also included bags of Walkers crisps, Sainsbury’s apple juice, Tesco packaging, plastic bags from Mothercare and newspapers. Mail was addressed to residents living in the local authority areas of Tendring, Wellingborough and Wakefield district councils and Leicestershire county Council. All UK councils are required to recycle. But after householders separate their rubbish and bin workers collect it, councils pass it on to waste firms, who in turn use subcontractors. They are under no obligation to reveal what they actually do with it. The situation is grim because many of these products are toxic and chemical laden, including PVC plastic containers, metal cans with toxic paints, multi-layered packaging, batteries and even genetically modified foods, all of which produce waste that can be hazardous. It’s easier for the developed countries to make countries like India their dumpsters because environment and health issues are still not very high on the agenda in South Asia. In any case, even if there is a consciousness or laws that address such problems, regulation is weak and expensive. Also, underdeveloped countries of South Asia are technologically challenged. As south Asian countries are relatively poor countries, they are unable to afford expensive and stringent standards for recycling. Nowadays, the export of electronic waste is on a rise. Used electronics such as computers, mobile phones, and telephones are being dumped in China and India, mainly due to obsolescence. The United States alone exports more than 10 million tons annually. The waste from these products contains toxic heavy metals such as cadmium, lead in computer monitors, mercury in lamps and chips, and flame-retardants in plastics. Research by Toxics Link shows that this high-tech waste is recycled in very unhealthy conditions in New Delhi.
The outcome of such a hideous act is that the workers have to bear the brunt of occupational and industrial risks of working in unprotected and shanty conditions. Majority of such workers include women and children and people with very low nutritional status, making them vulnerable even to very low-level exposures. Health surveys have shown that recyclers regularly suffered from complaints such as respiratory diseases and skin rashes.

A computer may be manufactured in Asia, used in North America and disposed in India. Electronic waste is labeled as second-hand computers, ostensibly to help schools and villages run education programs. Their health is bargained on pretext of education. The rich buy new computers, while older models find their way into the hands of more deprived consumers. The waste is then dumped onto the poorer communities, which shoulder the greatest burden of the impact of globalization.

Translocation to the South enables cost cutting all around, although the burden of waste is borne by local peoples and their environment. The poorer countries are becoming dirtier as the rich ones become cleaner. This disaster must stop before it wipes out our nation completely.

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