Inside The World’s Superdumps

Inside The World’s Superdumps

By William Pentland
12-02-2008, Forbes.com

http://www.forbes.com/logistics/2008/12/02/garbage-waste-landfills-biz-logistics-cx_wp_1202dumps.html

From toxic trash in China to mountain-sized landfills in Michigan, the world is awash in waste.

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And this is the magazine that wrote Nancy Rabalais and Gene Turner up for being the “darlings of the environmental community” for their Blasker award in 1991.
Waste Management
 
The largest garbage dump in the world is roughly twice the size of the continental U.S.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a continent-sized constellation of discarded shoes, bottles, bags, pacifiers, plastic wrappers, toothbrushes and every other type of trash imaginable, floating in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Hawaii and San Francisco. The ocean’s swirling currents have pushed the piles of debris, accumulated detritus of sea vessels and decades of under-the-radar ocean dumping, together in loose configurations just below the water’s surface.
©Jean Kent Unatin for Algalita Marine Research Foundation
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
The largest garbage dump in the world is roughly twice the size of the continental U.S. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a continent-sized constellation of discarded shoes, bottles, bags, pacifiers, plastic wrappers, toothbrushes and every other type of trash imaginable, floating in the Pacific Ocean about halfway between Hawaii and San Francisco. The ocean’s swirling currents have pushed the piles of debris, accumulated detritus of sea vessels and decades of under-the-radar ocean dumping, together in loose configurations just below the water’s surface. While nobody knows for sure where it came from or how to clean it up, the sheer size of the Garbage Patch has attracted attention to the world’s seldom-discussed renegade waste problem. The remains of daily life are becoming a colossal problem with increasingly global implications. Some places are running out of space to put it, and others haven’t even figured out how to pick it up in the first place. From toxic trash on the streets of Guiya to the mountain-sized municipal landfills in Michigan, the world is awash in waste–but not always in the places you’d expect.
Take, for example, the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. Fertilizer and pesticide use by farmers in the Midwest and Great Plains states has gradually raised nutrient levels in the Mississippi’s muddy waters to levels so high that algal blooms have appeared in the river drainage delta. These algal blooms deplete oxygen levels in the water to the point where it can no longer sustain fish, plants and microscopic species. Ergo, the "dead zone," an area that covers nearly 7,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico.
Everybody knows chemicals dumped in the wild can cause serious problems, and keeping them stored is not necessarily much safer. For decades, Africa was a major dumping grounds for toxic wastes. Since at least the early 1970s, there have been multiple cases of illicit toxic waste disposal deals between Western companies and African countries.
In 1987, for example, two Italian waste brokers, Gianfranco Raffaeli and Renato Pent, paid a Nigerian businessman, Sunday Nana, about $100 a month to store 18,000 drums of hazardous waste on his property in Nigeria. Nigerian officials discovered a cache of the illegal toxic waste, which contained high levels of PCB and dioxins, stored at the port of Koko. Regardless of how they got there, mountains of obsolete pesticides like DDT, aldrin and chlordane remain stockpiled in poorly maintained storage facilities across much of Africa. Mali and Botswana have reported especially large stockpiles of industrial chemicals discarded as long as 40 years ago.
While some countries address legacy problems like abandoned pesticides, other countries are busy creating new ones for future generations. China and India are no exceptions.
Guiyu is a cluster of interconnected villages located about an hour’s drive away from the South China Sea in the northern province of Guangdong. In the past decade, Guiyu has grown from a rice farming community to an enormous hub for recycling and disposal of electronic waste, including everything from defunct hard drives to broken television sets. The amount of e-waste that flows through the "recycling" plants of Guiya in a single year could create an acre-wide pile taller than the Statue of Liberty, according to an investigative report by Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition and the Basel Action Network.
©Jason Edwards/National Geographic/Getty Images
Alang, India: Shipbreaking
The city of Alang, which sits on the western coast of the Gulf of Cambay in western India, is the largest ship-scrapping yard in the world, demolishing hundreds of large ocean-going vessels every year. A ship that would cost millions to demolish in North America is worth millions in a place like Alang. Ships to be scrapped are run ashore during high tide on a roughly six-mile-long stretch of beach. When the tide recedes, thousands of low-wage workers descend on the ships, stripping and shredding them into pieces with crude tools. The industry provides 30,000 jobs in Alang and produces millions of tons of recycled steel every year. And that isn’t all it produces: Most old ships are loaded with toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls and materials like asbestos. If ships are not properly dismantled, they contaminate the area where they are broken down.
 
©AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
Mali’s Pesticide Stockpile
For decades, Africa was a major dumping ground for toxic wastes. Since at least the early 1970s, there have been multiple cases of illicit toxic waste disposal deals among companies in Western nations and African countries. In 1987, for example, two Italian waste brokers, Gianfranco Raffaeli and Renato Pent, paid a Nigerian businessman, Sunday Nana, about $100 a month to store 18,000 drums of hazardous waste on his property in Nigeria. Nigerian officials discovered a cache of the illegal toxic waste, which contained high levels of PCB and dioxins, stored at the port of Koko. Regardless of how they got there, mountains of obsolete pesticides like DDT, aldrin and chlordane remain stockpiled in poorly maintained storage facilities across much of Africa. Mali and Botswana have reported especially large stockpiles of industrial chemicals discarded as long as 40 years ago.
©NOAA
Dead Zone: Gulf of Mexico
The Mississippi River is suffocating a large part of the Gulf of Mexico. Fertilizer and pesticide use by farmers in the Midwest and Great Plains states has gradually raised nutrient levels in the Mississippi’s muddy waters to levels so high that algal blooms have appeared in the river drainage delta. These algal blooms deplete oxygen levels in the water to the point where it can no longer sustain fish, plants and microscopic species. Ergo, the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico has decimated marine life for up to 7,000 square miles.
 
 
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©Kevin Lee/Getty Images
Guiya, China: E-Waste
Guiyu is a cluster of interconnected villages located about an hour’s drive away from the South China Sea in Guangdong province. In the past 15 years, Guiyu has grown from a rice farming community to an enormous hub for recycling and disposal of electronic waste. Truckloads of printers, fax machines, hard drives and all kinds of defunct electronics arrive daily in Guiyu from warehouses in the port of Nanhai, where the imported waste arrives in sea-going containers. Roughly half these computers and electronic components are recycled; the rest are dumped, often in places likely to contaminate local water supplies. Although Chinese officials have recently stepped up efforts to enforce a longstanding ban on e-waste imports, there has likely been more than enough damage inflicted to last generations.
©LIONEL HEALING/AFP/Getty Images
Lagos, Nigeria
Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, has gotten too big too fast. In the past two decades, the city has grown to a population of more 13 million people, and the infrastructure needed to deliver services and provide basic sanitation for all those people has not kept pace. Lagos, Nigeria’s sprawling commercial capital, lacks an effective garbage collection network and has no central system for treating sewage and effluents from industries. Large cities across the developing world, where urbanization is outpacing the capacity of governments to improve infrastructure and waste-collection networks, are facing a similar predicament. The brutal equatorial heat makes matters worse by baking the garbage into nasty and potentially dangerous chemical combinations.
 
©TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images
Nairobi, Kenya: Dandora Dump
The Dandora Municipal Dumping Site, which sits about five miles east of central Nairobi, is one of Africa’s largest dumps and the primary disposal site for nearly all of the municipal waste generated by the 4.5 million people living in the Kenyan capital. Originally an old quarry, the site has grown into a giant mountain of garbage, stretching across roughly 30 acres of land. The site, which has no restrictions on what can be dumped, grows by more than 2,000 metric tons of industrial, agricultural, domestic and medical waste every day.
 
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2017-01-17T09:22:22+00:00December 8th, 2008|News|Comments Off on Inside The World’s Superdumps