Disposal of “1st World” Waste in the “3rd World”

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8th Feb 2020 Environmental Studies Reference this

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Introduction

What is considered “1st world” and “3rd world”? In 1952, Alfred Suavy used the terms “1st world”, “2nd world”, and “3rd world” to reference the capitalists, soviets, and neutral countries during the Cold War (Andrews, 2018).  Since then, many of these countries have remained in the same categories with the exception of the “second world” countries, but the meaning of these terms are not the same as it was during the Cold War (Andrews, 2018). For post-Cold War times and the context of this report, “1st world” countries will refer to higher income and highly developed countries and “3rd world” will refer to countries that have weaker economies and are still developing (Andrews, 2018). The “1st world” disposes many kind of waste and some of these waste ends up in “3rd world” countries. One kind of these waste is e-waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), e-waste or electronic waste refers to electronics that have been used to the point where they can be thrown or given away or recycled (“Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste)”, 2018). Even though these electronics may no longer serve their purpose, they contain materials that does not have to be thrown away (“Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste)”, 2018). In this report, the main focus will be on e-waste from the “1st world” and its effects on the environment and people in the “3rd world”.

Environmental Issues

E-waste affects the environment in many ways. E-waste can affect air quality, groundsoil, and water quality. Many e-waste, such as computers and TVs, contain copper wires. People living in “3rd world” countries would burn e-waste in order to get the copper wires (“Impacts of E-Waste on the environment”, 2017) and it is a quick way for them to make money. In the process of burning to the get the copper wires, hydrocarbons are released into the atmosphere (“Impacts of E-Waste on the environment”, 2017). In addition, the burning of the copper wire insulation can also release other air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (Kaiser & Tolciss, 2012). When e-waste is not properly thrown away, they may end up on the ground and leach heavy metals like lead or mercury (“Impacts of E-Waste on the environment”, 2017). According to a study done by the (Tamilnadu) National Rice Research Institute, soil with high amounts of calcium carbonate, due to e-waste, increased the alkaline levels and decreased the amount of nutrients such phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium in the soil (Dharini et al., 2017). As a result, the plants in the contaminated soil were malnourished (Dharini et al., 2017). When e-waste leeches heavy metals through the ground, the groundwater may carry these heavy metals and toxins to the other bodies of water (“Impacts of E-Waste on the environment”, 2017). In “3rd world” countries, there are many places without the treatment facilities to properly treat the water. As a consequence of e-waste, people may drink the contaminated water or consume animals that drank the contaminated water.

Effects of E-waste on Aquatic life and People

E-waste can contaminate aquatic ecosystems and affect the organisms living in those ecosystems. According to a study done in Ghana, the aquatic organisms that have been exposed to e-waste contamination are limited in their diversity (Huang et al., 2014). E-waste contamination can affect the food chains, biomass, and the number of aquatic organisms that survived (Huang et al., 2014). In addition, the aquatic organisms contaminated will experience changes in how they behave, process food, grow, reproduce, and in their appearance (Huang et al., 2014).

People living in “3rd world” countries can be affected by e-waste in several ways. One way is when people drink e-waste contaminated water or consume organisms that have been exposed to the e-waste contamination. People who consume e-waste contaminated organisms will also be affected by biomagnification. The higher the organism is in the food chain, the greater the pollutant will be in that organism (Holland et al., 2007). For example, if there was a small fish at the bottom of the food chain with 1 microgram of the pollutant. Then, a bigger fish consumes the smaller fish and the pollutant will be biomagnified to 10 micrograms in the bigger fish. When a human consumes the bigger fish, the pollutant concentration will be biomagnified to greater concentration. People who both drink e-waste contaminated water and consume e-waste contaminated organisms will be affected by bioaccumulation. Bioaccumulation refers to the net accumulation of pollutant concentrations in an organism due to its surroundings (Gupta, 2007). The pollutants in the contaminated aquatic organisms can be very persistent and will bioaccumulate in them (Huang et al., 2014). Because the e-waste pollutants can be very persistent, people who have been exposed to e-waste contamination will positive net bioaccumulation of the pollutants which is not good for their health. Pollutants from e-waste can affect the health of people in many ways such as how people behave, breathe, and give birth. In the “3rd world”, pregnant women and children are very vulnerable to e-waste contamination and the health effects of e-waste can affect the development of children (Avakian, 2013).

Discussion

China, India, Pakistan, and Nigeria are some of the developing countries that are receiving e-waste (Watry, 2017). These countries view the act of receiving e-waste as additional economic gain but may not know or fully understand the consequences if e-waste is not safely handled (Watry, 2017). In countries receiving e-waste, e-waste disposal has created business and jobs for lower-income people. One reason why “1st world” countries continue these practices is because their regulations causes disposal to be more expensive so shipping to “3rd world” countries would be easier and cheaper (Watry, 2017).  In “3rd world” countries, the correct procedures for recycling waste are not cost-effective as the unsafe recycling procedures (Watry, 2017). In these countries, the lack of regulations allow unsafe e-waste disposal to continue (Watry, 2017). In the “1st world”, two main systems, collective and clearing house, are used to dispose e-waste (Watry, 2017). Collective systems are a not for profit system, and clearing house system is more like a bidding system (Watry, 2017). Highly skilled workers are needed for these systems and the cost of the facilities can cost over 9 figures  (Watry, 2017). As you can see, there is an economic gain for “1st world” countries as well by sending their e-waste to the “3rd world”. It is estimated that there are about 41 million tons of e-waste in 2014 and that number is growing three to five percent annually (Watry, 2017). To put 41 million tons in perspective, that is about 328,000,000,000 (by rough calculation) McDonald’s quarter pounder burgers. Then, if every person would be given two McDonald’s quarter pounders, 164,000,000,000 people would be fed which would be enough to feed the whole world multiple times!

Conclusion

E-waste from the “1st world”, can have a huge impact on the “3rd world”. E-waste contamination can impact the air, groundsoil, and water quality. Aquatic ecosystems can be affected by the e-waste contaminated water, and aquatic organisms can bioaccumulate and biomagnify these pollutants. As a result, people living in the “3rd world” may breathe, drink, or consume these pollutants due to lack of proper treatment and disposal of e-waste. “1st world” countries save money by shipping their e-waste to “3rd World” countries, and “3rd world” countries add another source of revenue to their economy. However, this is not beneficial for the world as whole and especially for the future. People living in the “1st world” can take action by using their electronics for longer periods of time. Instead of getting a new phone every year, people can use their phones for multiple years. When people have finished using their electronics, they should take their e-waste to the appropriate recycling center and not just let them go the landfill.

References:

Introduction

What is considered “1st world” and “3rd world”? In 1952, Alfred Suavy used the terms “1st world”, “2nd world”, and “3rd world” to reference the capitalists, soviets, and neutral countries during the Cold War (Andrews, 2018).  Since then, many of these countries have remained in the same categories with the exception of the “second world” countries, but the meaning of these terms are not the same as it was during the Cold War (Andrews, 2018). For post-Cold War times and the context of this report, “1st world” countries will refer to higher income and highly developed countries and “3rd world” will refer to countries that have weaker economies and are still developing (Andrews, 2018). The “1st world” disposes many kind of waste and some of these waste ends up in “3rd world” countries. One kind of these waste is e-waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), e-waste or electronic waste refers to electronics that have been used to the point where they can be thrown or given away or recycled (“Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste)”, 2018). Even though these electronics may no longer serve their purpose, they contain materials that does not have to be thrown away (“Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste)”, 2018). In this report, the main focus will be on e-waste from the “1st world” and its effects on the environment and people in the “3rd world”.

Environmental Issues

E-waste affects the environment in many ways. E-waste can affect air quality, groundsoil, and water quality. Many e-waste, such as computers and TVs, contain copper wires. People living in “3rd world” countries would burn e-waste in order to get the copper wires (“Impacts of E-Waste on the environment”, 2017) and it is a quick way for them to make money. In the process of burning to the get the copper wires, hydrocarbons are released into the atmosphere (“Impacts of E-Waste on the environment”, 2017). In addition, the burning of the copper wire insulation can also release other air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (Kaiser & Tolciss, 2012). When e-waste is not properly thrown away, they may end up on the ground and leach heavy metals like lead or mercury (“Impacts of E-Waste on the environment”, 2017). According to a study done by the (Tamilnadu) National Rice Research Institute, soil with high amounts of calcium carbonate, due to e-waste, increased the alkaline levels and decreased the amount of nutrients such phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium in the soil (Dharini et al., 2017). As a result, the plants in the contaminated soil were malnourished (Dharini et al., 2017). When e-waste leeches heavy metals through the ground, the groundwater may carry these heavy metals and toxins to the other bodies of water (“Impacts of E-Waste on the environment”, 2017). In “3rd world” countries, there are many places without the treatment facilities to properly treat the water. As a consequence of e-waste, people may drink the contaminated water or consume animals that drank the contaminated water.

Effects of E-waste on Aquatic life and People

E-waste can contaminate aquatic ecosystems and affect the organisms living in those ecosystems. According to a study done in Ghana, the aquatic organisms that have been exposed to e-waste contamination are limited in their diversity (Huang et al., 2014). E-waste contamination can affect the food chains, biomass, and the number of aquatic organisms that survived (Huang et al., 2014). In addition, the aquatic organisms contaminated will experience changes in how they behave, process food, grow, reproduce, and in their appearance (Huang et al., 2014).

People living in “3rd world” countries can be affected by e-waste in several ways. One way is when people drink e-waste contaminated water or consume organisms that have been exposed to the e-waste contamination. People who consume e-waste contaminated organisms will also be affected by biomagnification. The higher the organism is in the food chain, the greater the pollutant will be in that organism (Holland et al., 2007). For example, if there was a small fish at the bottom of the food chain with 1 microgram of the pollutant. Then, a bigger fish consumes the smaller fish and the pollutant will be biomagnified to 10 micrograms in the bigger fish. When a human consumes the bigger fish, the pollutant concentration will be biomagnified to greater concentration. People who both drink e-waste contaminated water and consume e-waste contaminated organisms will be affected by bioaccumulation. Bioaccumulation refers to the net accumulation of pollutant concentrations in an organism due to its surroundings (Gupta, 2007). The pollutants in the contaminated aquatic organisms can be very persistent and will bioaccumulate in them (Huang et al., 2014). Because the e-waste pollutants can be very persistent, people who have been exposed to e-waste contamination will positive net bioaccumulation of the pollutants which is not good for their health. Pollutants from e-waste can affect the health of people in many ways such as how people behave, breathe, and give birth. In the “3rd world”, pregnant women and children are very vulnerable to e-waste contamination and the health effects of e-waste can affect the development of children (Avakian, 2013).

Discussion

China, India, Pakistan, and Nigeria are some of the developing countries that are receiving e-waste (Watry, 2017). These countries view the act of receiving e-waste as additional economic gain but may not know or fully understand the consequences if e-waste is not safely handled (Watry, 2017). In countries receiving e-waste, e-waste disposal has created business and jobs for lower-income people. One reason why “1st world” countries continue these practices is because their regulations causes disposal to be more expensive so shipping to “3rd world” countries would be easier and cheaper (Watry, 2017).  In “3rd world” countries, the correct procedures for recycling waste are not cost-effective as the unsafe recycling procedures (Watry, 2017). In these countries, the lack of regulations allow unsafe e-waste disposal to continue (Watry, 2017). In the “1st world”, two main systems, collective and clearing house, are used to dispose e-waste (Watry, 2017). Collective systems are a not for profit system, and clearing house system is more like a bidding system (Watry, 2017). Highly skilled workers are needed for these systems and the cost of the facilities can cost over 9 figures  (Watry, 2017). As you can see, there is an economic gain for “1st world” countries as well by sending their e-waste to the “3rd world”. It is estimated that there are about 41 million tons of e-waste in 2014 and that number is growing three to five percent annually (Watry, 2017). To put 41 million tons in perspective, that is about 328,000,000,000 (by rough calculation) McDonald’s quarter pounder burgers. Then, if every person would be given two McDonald’s quarter pounders, 164,000,000,000 people would be fed which would be enough to feed the whole world multiple times!

Conclusion

E-waste from the “1st world”, can have a huge impact on the “3rd world”. E-waste contamination can impact the air, groundsoil, and water quality. Aquatic ecosystems can be affected by the e-waste contaminated water, and aquatic organisms can bioaccumulate and biomagnify these pollutants. As a result, people living in the “3rd world” may breathe, drink, or consume these pollutants due to lack of proper treatment and disposal of e-waste. “1st world” countries save money by shipping their e-waste to “3rd World” countries, and “3rd world” countries add another source of revenue to their economy. However, this is not beneficial for the world as whole and especially for the future. People living in the “1st world” can take action by using their electronics for longer periods of time. Instead of getting a new phone every year, people can use their phones for multiple years. When people have finished using their electronics, they should take their e-waste to the appropriate recycling center and not just let them go the landfill.

References:

  • Andrews, E. (2018, August 22). Why are countries classified as First, Second or Third World? Retrieved from https://www.history.com/news/why-are-countries-classified-as-first-second-or-third-world
  • Avakian, M. (2013). E-waste: An Emerging Health Risk. Retrieved from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/programs/geh/geh_newsletter/2014/2/spotlight/ewaste_an_emerging_health_risk_.cfm
  • Cleaning Up Electronic Waste (E-Waste). (2018, December 03). Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/cleaning-electronic-waste-e-waste
  • Dharini, K., Cynthia, J. B., Kamalambikai, B., Celestina, J., & Muthu, D. (2017). Hazardous E-waste and its impact on soil structure. Retrieved from Hazardous E-waste and its impact on soil structure
  • Gupta, R. C. (2007). Veterinary toxicology: Basic and clinical principles. New York: Elsevier.
  • Holland, H. D., & Turekian, K. K. (2007). Treatise on geochemistry. S.l.: Elsevier Science.
  • Huang, J., Nkrumah, P. N., Anim, D. O., & Mensah, E. (2014). E-waste disposal effects on the aquatic environment: Accra, Ghana. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24515808
  • Impacts of E-Waste on the environment. (2017, May 25). Retrieved from http://www.eterra.com.ng/articles/impacts-e-waste-environment/
  • Kaiser, E. R., & Tolciss, J. (2012, March 19). CONTROL of AIR POLLUTION from the BURNING of INSULATED COPPER WIRE. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00022470.1963.10468141
  • Watry, Burgett, S, M., & Jk. (2017, April 13). Effects of Electronic Waste on Developing Countries. Retrieved from https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/effects-of-electronic-waste-on-developing-countries-2475-7675-1000128.php?aid=88750

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