Poverty Vs. Pollution, Economy Vs. Ecosystem: Landfill Problem Around The Globe

The World Count estimates that over 2.12 billion tons of waste are produced around the world per year. The question of how to cope with that huge amount of trash has become a global issue. Aside from the obvious environmental pollution that waste creates, it also generates internal disagreements and conflicts between countries.

The Guardian reports on the current environment and living situation in Indonesia, “Indonesians fight for more ‘smelly money’ to bear life near Jakarta’s landfill mountain.” In short, the government is paying the residents that live near the huge dumping field outside of the capital. However, as the situation becomes more and more unbearable, the monthly payments of 200,000 Indonesian rupiahs, which is around $13 USD, seem far from enough. The water pollution is so grievous that people have to purchase bottled water for their daily use. The poor living conditions and the mutilated environment have done great harm to the 18,000 residents of this area, among whom over 6,000 work as trash pickers. Yet, many cannot escape the dire situation by moving away as recycling and reselling plastic and rubbish are a major part of their income. However, residents are now calling for an increase in their compensations because of the worsening living conditions.

As Indonesia is struggling with rapidly expanding landfills, some other countries are experiencing the opposite situation. For example, developed countries like the U.K. choose to “dump” their waste overseas rather than recycle it themselves. That happens not because these countries are not equipped with the required technology but because it is easier and less harmful to their own environments to “send” waste away.

For many years, China has been accepting waste from developed countries. However, the economic situation in China has significantly improved,

and the environmental situation has significantly worsened. Thus, the Chinese government has tightened its policy on importing waste from other countries. The West is left looking for its next “prey.” It proves to be not that difficult as many developing countries are in desperate financial need.

The sad truth is that many people in the developed countries continue to believe that their trash is always properly recycled. However, the reality might not be that sound. An investigation into the U.K.’s recycling industry discovered cases of fraud and corruption behind the masks of environmentally friendly and sustainable recycling companies. Turns out that sometimes there is no high-tech that transforms garbage into usable materials. Rather waste is sent away to the developing countries for a certain price. As has been said, China used to be the biggest receiver of trash from developed countries. As a result, the country’s environment and people’s health have greatly suffered. Earlier this year, the policy was made to stop the Chinese recycling industry importing foreign waste, but soon enough this waste started heading to Thailand.

“Socio-Environmental and Hematological Profile of Landfill Residents” is a research article by scholars of Environmental Science, Biology and Chemistry from Brazil. The researchers want to determine the connection between a variety of serious diseases and environmental and economic factors. The research method includes monitoring blood test results of the residents living near São Jorge, the landfill in Sao Paulo and comparing the data with “non-exposed” samples. With the help from scholars from different study disciplines, the research proves that exposure to landfill pollution is connected to diseases including leukopenia, anemia, neutropenia and lymphocytosis. 

The researchers admit that the scale of the research is limited by time and financial constraints. However, they believe that their work is helpful in terms of policy and decision making for government officials.

Some may argue that this situation is unfair for developing countries, they accept waste because they are in need of financial support. Yet, long-term environmental and health consequences are important to consider. As for the developed countries, instead of thinking about sending waste to other places, they might want to consider how to lower plastic, paper and e-wastes that are produced daily. It is apparent that to cut the source of the problem is better than to transfer it to other places.