Animals eating waste
Economy Europe Featured Global Human Rights Nature World

Poor Countries: Dumping Sites of Rich Nations

It is always being said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. But dumping dangerous waste in poor and developing countries sees no treasure from rich man’s trash. In fact, it is the rich man’s burden that a poor man is forced to bear.

Around the world, waste generation is rising fast with more urbanisation and high consumption.

World Bank estimated that waste generation would exceed 70% from the 2016 level and reach 3.40 billion tonnes by 2050.

Also Read: Global Garbage Crisis: How is the World Drowning in its Own Trash?

High-income countries account for only 16% of the global population but generate more than one-third of the world’s waste.

Annual Municipal Waste generated per capita

Source: The World Bank


The UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report predicted that e-waste will reach 74 metric tons by the year 2030, doubling waste in just 16 years.

The UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020 report predicted that e-waste will reach 74 metric tons by the year 2030, doubling waste in just 16 years.

Also Read: Microplastics: The Miraculous Solutions to the Toxic Danger

E-waste has become the fastest generated waste from households due to higher consumption, short life cycle and less reusability. But the fact is e-waste is the most toxic to human health. It generates carcinogenic fumes and wastes that harm human organs.

Animals eating through waste.

Source: Deutsche Welle (DW)

Ragpickers in Nairobi search for recyclable plastic to earn their living. But these people are always the losers for their health and well-being. Plastic as a non-biodegradable product generally ends up in the oceans and causes harm to the flora and fauna of the water as well. Rivers and inland water sources also become polluted in countries with a lack of waste disposal infrastructure.

A legal dispute between Canada and the Philippines discloses the dark side of the global trade of waste.

Fisherman going through waste in a river

Source: Deutsche Welle (DW)

Here a fisherman in the Philippines tries to remove fish traps from plastic-loaded waters.

United Nations Sustainable Goals urged the nations to work hard to make the world cleaner and environment friendly by reducing the impacts of climate change.

But if the poor countries keep accepting the rags of rich world people, then how will it fulfil the promise of a clean and healthy environment for their own people.

Sub-Saharan countries are specially mentioned where waste generation would be tripled by 2050. Hence it is witnessed that countries which are least capable of managing their waste are dealing with the ever-increasing burden of trash in the world.

European Environment Agency says that European countries do not keep track of their e-waste being generated and exported mostly to Asia and West Africa. While A new study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology suggested that the US shipped its discarded mobile and electronic waste to Caribbeans, Hong Kong and Latin America.

Also Read: Illegal Waste Dumping: How to Tackle This Spiralling Crime?

Africa is witnessing a twin menace from high levels of e-waste generated toxic and environmental pollution and already raised global warming effects due to climate change.

Countries of Africa are already facing the huge effects of climate change and many of these are the dumpsites of Europe. Environmentalists and analysts are fearful that such African countries would not be able to meet the sustainable goals for a clean environment.

African environmental expert Nnimmo Bassey says that Africa is becoming a dumpsite for the West for all kinds of waste. He further emphasised other countries are becoming conscious of the ill effects of waste thus rejecting it.

Bassey added that African governments are not taking serious steps to make laws and stop such dumping because they are probably taking payments to let the waste be dumped onto their lands.

What Does the World’s Waste Do to Poor Countries?

Foremost, it contaminates oceans, clogs drains, causes floods, spreads infectious diseases, stinks and pollutes the environment, harms wildlife and damages the overall flora and fauna of already poor countries.

Tearfund, a poverty charity, estimated that between 400000 and 1 million people die each year in developing countries due to diseases spread by mismanaged waste.

Also Read: Plastic Pollution: How Vulnerable Communities Are Adversely Affected By Plastic Wastes

Although, waste picking provides a source of income to the world’s poorest population and also reduces the cost for municipalities. But undoubtedly this is very dangerous and unhealthy work. Burning and smashing of such harmful wastes release pathogens and disease-causing fines in the air and lead to infectious viruses and bacteria in the surroundings.

In fact, disposal of electronic and chemical waste is cancerous and leads to deaths from cancer if not handled with care and with appropriate waste management techniques.

But as such poor nations mostly do not have planned waste management and disposal systems in place. Hence, unsystematic and unprotected waste disposal causes harm to the rag pickers.

Rich Nations Must Pay!

Countries must pay for dumping their trash in poor nations.

Countries generating waste beyond a limit must take measures to set some budget for making dumping countries a better place for people to live. Companies that are generating waste must source their funding in poor nations that are accepting their waste.

Graph showing average waste per person among OECD countries

Developed Nations that ship their waste to poor countries cannot deny their responsibilities for making the environment polluted, seas choked and a nuisance all over.

Each nation must manage their waste on their own territories instead of luring poor nations to accept toxic waste and dispose of their lands.

Nations must know how to consume less, produce less, recycle waste and reuse.

Also Read: The African Great Green Wall

Countries that dump their waste in poor nations know and understand the health and environmental consequences of their acts and still proceed. Hence, they should be penalised.

What Can be Done for the Future?

South Korea is an inspiration here, it once recycled only 2% of its food waste and now achieves 95% of food waste recycling.

Though almost every country in the world signed a UN pact in 2019 to reduce the export of hard-to-recycle plastic waste and even companies pledged to take efforts to cut the production of such plastics and take recycling steps. Now, the implementation of these pledges in a serious manner is most warranted to gain real results beyond pacts and promises.

Estimate of waste added to oceans each year.

Source: National Geographic

Another solution that can handle the problem of mounting waste is the creation of a circular economy as proposed by World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with the use of analytics produced by McKinsey & Company.

This system aims at minimising the waste and reusing almost all what we have produced.

Countries should recycle and dispose of all of their waste within their boundaries without shrugging the responsibility towards the already burdened and poor people. Else, these people would not be able to bear the cost of an unhealthy population, polluted environment and damaged ecosystem.

International organizations can fund more waste management and disposal systems like that by funding of infrastructure of recycling capacities by the World Bank.

The world needs a strategy for more growth and less garbage.

In fact, its the duty of economically affluent nations to provide funds, expertise and encouragement to least developed and developing countries to make their waste disposal and recycling systems develop and work effectively.

Recycling will also save the rare earth minerals for future electronic manufacturing and prove an economically beneficial option.

Finally, a healthy and clean environment is a shared advantage for the world and benefits all.