The problems of waste management are different for the developing world. Because the economies of developing countries are usually not as robust as the economies of countries such as the United States, people in these poorer countries tend to buy fewer products with less packaging, and they produce less waste than Americans or residents of other industrialized nations. On the
other hand, unlike developed nations, poorer countries in the developing world often have not developed adequate waste management policies or systems, trash collection services, or government institutions to properly manage their wastes. As the Web site Fabric of Nature explains:
Most developing countries don't have any organized means of controlling solid waste. Garbage is rarely even 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, anyway. Laws are often lax—burning of garbage and open dumping allowed. Frequently, a lack of funds prevents municipalities in such countries from ever being able to even create a proper waste management system, in the first place.
Then, the lack of status and poor salaries associated with the profession discourages qualified employees, so personnel rarely has the ability or the training to manage an effective system, even when one exists.37
The result in many cases is that garbage in developing countries tends to pile up in waterways and on land, creating serious health and environmental hazards. This problem of waste management is especially acute in countries with rapidly growing urban areas. As World Health Organization researcher Hisashi Ogawa notes, "The management of solid waste is becoming a major public health and environmental concern in urban areas of many developing countries."38
A Developing Country's Trash
"One of the surest signs that you're in a developing country is the trash beneath your feet."—Bryan Walsh, Time magazine's energy and climate writer.
Bryan Walsh, "Trash Problems in Paradise," Time, January 2, 2008. www.time.com/ time/world/article/0,8599,1701095,00.html.
One of the worst examples is the city of Manila, capital of the Philippines. There, residents generate 8,000 tons (7,982 metric tons) of garbage each day, but for years the government did not collect the garbage or educate the public about recycling or other waste reduction options. As a result, the city's garbage simply piled up at numerous dumps, which attracted flies, rats, and other vermin. The dumps also encouraged poor people to scavenge amongst the trash to earn a meager living. Some people even lived on the dumps in shanties amid fetid garbage, methane fumes, and various toxins. In 2000 one of the biggest dumps— a huge trash mountain called Payatas—collapsed after typhoon rains, destroying one of the shantytowns and killing 219 people. After the tragedy, the government cleaned up the site, but a new dump was opened next door that continues to provide the only source of income for many poor residents.
As poorer nations industrialize and become wealthier and more consumer oriented, garbage problems usually worsen. China, which has become an economic powerhouse in just the last decade, is the best example of this phenomenon. According to a 2005 World Bank report: "China recently surpassed the United States as the world's largest municipal solid waste (MSW) generator. In 2004 the urban areas of China generated about 190,000,000 tonnes of MSW and by 2030 this amount is projected to be at least 480,000,000 tonnes. No country has ever experienced as large, or as rapid, an increase in waste generation."39 Managing this rapid increase in garbage presents all kinds of major health, social, and environmental problems. Perhaps the worst impact in China is environmental deterioration so bad that Chinese people are regularly sickened by toxic pollutants entering the air, soil, and water. The World Bank has estimated that almost half a million Chinese people die prematurely each year from breathing in the polluted air and drinking the dirty water. Yet government efforts to address this pollution face enormous obstacles, as millions of Chinese demand their slice of the growing economic pie. As journalist David Stanway explains, "With hundreds of millions of urban residents enjoying the fruits of consumerism, the government is struggling to bring a sense of the environmental costs of breakneck economic growth. It has tried to rein in industrial polluters by cutting off credit, suspending licenses and jailing repeat offenders, but officials bemoan the failure of ordinary people to be green."40 Some Chinese leaders have even speculated that the environmental destruction may eventually halt China's economic progress.
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