As worldwide recognition of pollution and climate change increases, so have environmental regulations. Yet, the Global South is still being hurt the most. Pollution migration and trash dumping are posing a threat to developing countries rather than countries that exacerbate the pollution issue the most - generally the Global North.
The United States, China, Brazil, Japan, and Germany are the leading trash generating countries globally. There is an overall correlation; the more urbanized a country becomes, the more trash it produces. Yet, it is not an exponential progression; despite China having four times the population of the U.S., the U.S. still generated 228 million tons of trash in 2006, compared to China’s 190 million tons the same year.
People in these five nations typically have an “out of sight out of mind” mindset to trash disposal, but they should not forget that all trash eventually ends up somewhere .
Unfortunately, the Global South faces the brunt. After decades of the world dumping their trash in China, China banned the import of any plastic waste a few years back; however, this move redirected waste to Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The Global North is now exporting their trash to countries in the Global South, specifically Asia and Africa. They are doing so knowing that the countries they are burdening often do not have the proper infrastructure or technology to process the abundance of waste.
The Deonar Waste Mountain Mumbai, India
It is not enough to simply note that trash is piling up in the Global South due to the Global North, but countries and their populations in the Global South are being dangerously impacted in irreversible and life-threatening ways.
The Deonar rubbish mountain in Mumbai, India, spans 326 acres and is 120 feet high. The mountain only has a capacity of 2,000 tons of waste a day, yet it receives upwards of 5,000 tons of waste daily. Those who live in the area note that the trash location has been there for as long as they remember.
For locals, this center is hazardous despite it not being their fault. It was noted in early 2016 that the region contained 12.7 million tons of combustible methane gas. Despite the alarming number, there were no global or internal goals to alleviate the issue. Later that year, a fire broke out; it was massive with smoke so serious that NASA satellites could easily pick up on it. The impacts of these fire outbreaks are dangerous air emissions and natural disasters for areas that are already underdeveloped and poverty-stricken. Despite such a catastrophic problem, waste is still accumulated there daily.
The Global North Must Contribute Their Share
The means of trash management in the Global North due to more resources speak volumes compared to the Global South. A few years back, officials in New York City came up with a whole new system to deal with their overload of trash. The garbage from New York City streets is collected and placed in truckloads and transported to shipment containers. By collecting trash and placing it in enclosed loads, the city is reducing carbon emissions by 34,000 tons and maintaining the city's congestion and infrastructure by saving 60 million miles of truck traffic.
From there, the trash is taken through the waterways to global transfer stations and finally brought to be burned and turned into electricity. Many of these facilities can burn 1 million tons of trash annually and then produce electricity in turn. Once everything has burned, the leftover metal is saved, which generally is enough to make about 21,000 cars. Then using a scrubber reactor, the center deals with the dangerous fumes that burning trash causes. Lime slurry cleans any activated gasses, and a system with activated carbon absorbs any leftover pollutants. Finally, a method of filters is used to manage excess.
New York City has a flourishing system to manage trash disposal due to its abundance of resources and economic means. Claws so giant that one grab can pick up as much as a whole garbage truck, incinerators that reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit for trash to burn within 2 hours, extensive cameras for safe operation, and multiple processes to clean up dangerous emissions after proper electricity is attained all speak to their efficiency of their resources.
However, countries like Ghana, India, and many more do not have the proper means to burn waste for electricity and, therefore, are forced to live with hazardous high trash mountains.
Conclusion and Takeaways
Despite having an abundance of resources to deal with this trash problem, the Global North continuously redirects its trash to the Global South. Notably, countries in Asia and Africa do not produce as much waste but end up suffering from the world’s garbage.
All countries need to understand that the world’s trash problem is a global problem. Redirecting trash will not solve the problem. By sharing resources and processes, taking responsibility, and reducing waste production, the Global North can tremendously help the Global South by fighting for change against the current status quo. We have come to realize that people of the world are connected by climate and pollution, and it is necessary to acknowledge that dumping our trash in somebody else’s backyard may be a temporary solution for us but will come back to haunt us as well.
Ayesha Shaikh is currently a student at George Washington University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sustainability. She is passionate about directing the legal sphere to help minorities globally.