Where do we send the garbage?

On a national level, certain cities and towns have been specialized to process, incinerate, reclaim, and recycle waste that is both local to the area and often sent from other states. This allows for a larger and more centralized operation but increases pollution from the movement of the waste. The international level is pretty similar in these regards, garbage is shipped to poorer countries en masse as if swept under the carpet of the planet. The people of these countries are tasked with tedious and hazardous task of sorting and reclaiming whatever they can before incinerating the rest. Do you think that countries or states have a moral obligation to deal with their own waste or is the current model of collecting and centralizing the waste worth improving upon?

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4 Responses to Where do we send the garbage?

  1. R.C. says:

    It’s a mixed bag, really. On one hand, offshoring trash does provide such developing countries with an economic opportunity. Of course, that hand is shaky at best, since the conditions naturally associated with trash are horrid, resulting in health and ecosystem concerns. The other hand is that the ignorance of garbage means that we will do little to improve what isn’t there (out of sight, out of mind).

    It wouldn’t be a bad idea to combine the two options: centralize the system of disposing and recycling trash within the country. It’s the best compromise that can be had; with everyone yelling NIMBY, we can’t make every state have their own backyard landfill and/or processing facility. Thus, with a semi-out-of-sight system, out in hopefully scenic nowhere (no offense to Courage the Cowardly Dog), we can deal with our trash without international incident.

    Come to think of it, we do that now, to an extent. It would behoove us to attempt to improve and modify existing sites within the states, as well as plan new sites, to the point in which we would not have to or need to export our “goods”. I suppose, ultimately, I would advocate for a domestic option for operating.

  2. Edson Flores says:

    Although I believe that each state should deal with the issue the state itself generates, the namely garbage disposal, I have come to understand that “a person’s trash is another person’s treasure” is more than a corny cliche.

    I came across an article recently about a situation that can best be described as a First World problem: Sweden ran out of trash and is being forced to import from Norway. Almost all of the energy produced in Sweden comes from incinerators that transform waste into energy, so they rely heavily on a constant generation of waste. Norway on the other hand has no incineration program and waste is a big problem since they do not know what to do with their garbage.

    This starts to sound like a trade agreement to me.

    I don’t think shipping waste is a matter of morality or condescendence toward developing countries or other states. I think that if properly regulated and established, a new channel for international (or domestic) trade may arise, one in which both parties are incentivized to follow their best interests, not a feeling of being charitable.

  3. The phrase “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure” does not work here at all. The fact of the matter is, people generally do not want to deal with their own garbage and will go through great lengths to get rid of it some how. Whether it be leave it alone and let someone else deal with it or just pile it up somewhere else, it has become a moral issue. States and countries all over the world take part in this practice. There are areas all over the world that have become garbage dumps.

    The on going joke about Staten Island (This is in no way a jab at any Staten Islanders) is that it is the dump for the other four boroughs. Now, I personally think that every single town or city should be responsible for their own garbage because it is their garbage. The only problem is how do they go about it? Should every city have its own incinerator? Should there be one per state? I feel like the question isn’t really if it’s a moral issue. But, it is how we can actually get rid of the garbage efficiently and in a more green fashion.

    Collecting and centralizing waste may be the only viable option for us now even though it is considered rather unethical. Having areas that have no human’s living in it seems like the best place for these waste management plants to preside in. However, this raises the ethical concerns on how we can find places that are not inhabited by ANYBODY. It is a wild conundrum that may not see an ethical solution for the time being.

  4. Megan Chiu says:

    How would you feel if you had to clean up someone else’s trash, when you had no involvement in contributing to it? Why should you be responsible for doing so?

    I think that states should be responsible for disposing of their own waste. It is not fair to be socially and environmentally irresponsible and just ship away our problems just because we have the financial ability to do so. This type of mentality eliminates accountability for garbage, because states may think that once garbage is out of its borders, they no longer have to care for it.

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