Week 5 Prompt 3: Justice


I agree with Wenz’s belief that developed countries, such as America, are outsourcing our waste to poorer countries. But I wouldn’t go to the extreme of calling this act “environmental racism” because I don’t think racism is the main motivator behind this action. Rather, I think developed countries, such as America, are outsourcing our waste to poorer countries solely for financial benefit. For example, when it comes to e-waste, I don’t believe it makes a difference to American electronic companies whether they are shipping their old TVs and cell phones to Guiyu, China or to Manila, Philippines, for all they care about is breaking down the electronics in order to get the precious metals inside, even at the cost of human life. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you are Asian, Hispanic, Black, or White, if you can provide the man power and are desperate enough to risk contracting cancer, brain damage, mutations, or kidney disease for minimal pay, then an American electronics company wants you. Poor communities don’t tend to be located next to hazardous waste sites, poor communities are created by foreign outsourcing. Foreign outsourcing creates poor communities by shipping waste to these communities and forcing the people that live there to live off of minimal wage. If the American companies that create this foreign outsourcing give their foreign workers a higher wage, then there is a higher possibility that the money can be used to protect the health of the community’s environment and the health of the people that live there. What I believe should be done about the waste that is generally shipped to developing countries is avoid shipping the waste to the developing countries in the first place. That is, America should instead of, for example, “recycling” e-waste, they should reuse electronics (that are in useable condition) by donating them to schools and households that are in dire need of them instead of being thrown in a landfill. Maybe some kind of incentive such as a tax deduction, could be given to the donator in hopes that more people will be willing to become more sustainable. The only question is what should we do about the electronics that are obsolete? For the electronics that are obsolete, the government should require the companies that make these products to take back the obsolete products and make it their responsibility to store this waste in an environmentally safe manner. These companies should understand that storing this waste in an environmentally safe manner does not mean we should give the waste to someone else. For giving the waste to another country spreads the problem rather than containing it or making the problem less severe.

-Stephanie Petrakos

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2 responses »

  1. First of all, I love the idea of companies being required to collect outdated electronics and dispose of them properly. I think we have seen this as an option in many large companies, Apple being one of them. Still, some charge a fee for recycling such products, which is a major deterrent for most consumers. Why would I pay someone to take this when I can just dump it? The question then becomes one of policy, and that’s a whole different ball game. Either way, I think some of us are headed in the right direction, and at least it is an option.

  2. I agree that “environmental racism” is a bad term. We are not shipping our waste to poorer countries simply because of racial bias, but rather because it’s cost effective and convenient. This totally exemplifies the “out of sight, out of mind” ideology. However, this does pose one question to me. What if we shipped all our waste, outdated electronics, et cetera to Canada? Would it be better or worse? Is it because we share a ethnic majority, because we’re “close” to them, or both? I really don’t like playing Devil’s Advocate, but when looking at it from this perspective, it seems pretty easy to see why Wenz would coin the term “environmental racism.”

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