A few days ago, National Geographic posted the following image on their Instagram account. In the caption, they cited some statistics about the state of the pollution in Delhi, India. Along with it, was another number that estimated an increase in waste generation in Indian cities by 243%.
When I first saw this image, the first thing I remembered was the smell of rubber and it's stench. Growing up in the Philippines, we would burn our garbage in the backyard. While we didn't have much to burn, there is a specific smell that is emitted when rubber is burning and it's something that is hard to forget. I feel bad for the people of India. This is not their fault. Many of the commenters under this post were so quick to blame India's high population and the government's lack of oversight. This is actually a global problem and majority of this waste comes from first world countries. Majority of India is living in poverty and thus don't have much to begin with, yet alone, obtain enough things to create this much waste.
It is a known fact that the United States ships it's waste to other parts of the world. Electronic and textile waste are primary items that get discarded in another country. In the Philippines, donated clothes called "ukay ukay" are re-sold in small town markets. In places such as India, our electronic waste is taken apart so that the parts can be re-sold and melted. The problem with this process is that it's done by individuals without any type of protective gear. It's children handling hazardous materials just so that they can eat. The irony in all of this is that these items are manufactured just a few villages away in inhumane conditions. They are made by hard working individuals with little pay, gets sold in high end stores at 100x or more and then discarded quite easily by our over consuming society.
After living in the States for over 20 years, it's easy to not have to think about this stuff. Our garbage is hauled out of sight and out of mind. We put things in the recycling bin without question (even though most facilities cannot process all items for recycling), but we rarely question what happens to those items. There's people out there living a zero waste lifestyle or living minimally. These are individuals taking it upon themselves to be more conscious consumers. Some people call this extreme, but is it really, when all it is asking is for people to be mindful of what they buying and throwing away.
Think about this garbage pile the next time you buy and throw something away. Did you really need the item? Could you have done without it? Do you wonder why the item only cost a few dollars? What will you do once you are done with it? Where will it go?