As a company which offers environmental services, we come across ‘waste’ on a regular basis, but the stuff we usually deal with is generally waste oils and fuels. In the western world, when we think of waste we typically think of household rubbish and recycling centres where potential rubbish can be reused for new things.
Unfortunately, the world’s waste is staggering in volume and sometimes dealt with in the most unethical ways, usually in order to save money.
Below you’ll find 5 examples of the world’s worst dumping grounds. And before you think that this is waste materials from the countries where the dumping occurs, read on further to be shocked!
Tyre Graveyard – Kuwait
Kuwait’s enormous tyre graveyard is home more than 7 million end of life rubber tyres. Sulaibiya is an area within Kuwait which houses gigantic craters filled to the brim with worn tyres that have no use. After thousands of miles on the road, these old tyres end up piled up here and can now be seen from space.
Environmental Effects of the Tyre Graveyard
With such a huge amount of rubber in the area, fires have been known to break out at the site. Health effects from emissions of burning tyres include irritation of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes, central nervous system depression, respiratory effects and cancer. The fumes created can have a huge impact on the environment itself. Emissions from the burning of tires include:
- Carbon monoxide (CO),
- Sulfur oxides (SO ),
- Nitrous oxides (NO ),
- Hydrogen chloride,
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
- Extremely toxic chemicals like furans and dioxins
Other environmental issues can be from water collected in the tyres. This can act as a breeding ground for mosquitos. In my opinion, this is a huge task and expectation on the land which makes it one of the world’s worst dumping grounds.
Some countries are recycling old tyres by using them in the construction of roads. This not only helps eliminate the mounds of tyres in landfills but, it’s also thought that the rubber helps reduce road noise.
Deonar Dumping Ground – Mumbai
As one of the fastest growing megacities, Mumbai has a population of almost 12 million people. Deonar is a suburb of Mumbai and is renowned for having the largest and oldest dumping ground in the city. It covers around 130 hectares and has a daily influx of 6000 tonnes of waste.
Environmental Effects Of the Deonar Dumping Ground
With so much waste (refuse and faeces) combined with the hot temperatures, the first initial environmental impact is the odour. Although, the local populous of the slums still scavenge throughout the dump all day looking for metal, plastic and other recyclable items to sell to recyclers.
The waste on the dump not only smells but, when it is incinerated, the smoke pollutes the air and travels great distances, often affecting townships many kilometres away. The dump itself has pipes which carry away the leachates and sewerage, but this usually winds up creating puddles in which uneducated children play in unknowing of the dangers.
The health effects to people in the area stem from respiratory problems, cholera, dysentery and diarrhoea. Other problems including rat and dog bites, infections to small wounds, scabies, asthma, bronchitis and malaria make this one of the world’s worst dumps.
Radioactive Waste In The Oceans – Worldwide
Disposal of radioactive and nuclear waste in the oceans was allowed from 1946 – 1993. It has since been outlawed by international treaties. Throughout those years, 13 countries contributed to the disposal of spent nuclear fuel (waste) and equipment in many parts of our oceans. These include the Arctic, North Atlantic, Pacific and East Sea.
There are 3 types of waste we’re talking about here:
Liquid Waste – Both packaged (contained) and unpackaged liquid nuclear waste were dumped into the oceans. The total amount of this type of radioactive waste equalled 1200 Terabecquerels.
Solid Waste – Solid waste was also dumped in packaged and unpackaged forms. The packaged waste was combined with cement or bitumen and consisted of filters, decontamination materials and resins. Unpackaged waste consisted of reactor vessel lids, pumps and generators.
Reactor Vessels – Some nuclear-powered vessels have been dumped (or their contents) in the oceans. Some with and without fuel onboard. Those with spent fuel were solidified or placed in special containers. One example, the Lenin Ice-breaker, once had an issue whilst needing refuelling. The spent fuel should have been removed before the coolant. However, the coolant was accidentally withdrawn first and the fuel melted some of the internal components. The rods that controlled the grid and fuel were placed in a special container and dumped in the Arctic Ocean.
The amount dumped throughout those years is quantified by Terabecquerels and equals about 85,000 TBq.
Environmental Effects of Radioactive Waste in the Oceans
There is limited information regarding the effects of the dumping in the immediate areas. Different countries dumped in different oceans and although they do make checks, it’s unclear as to the exact details. Some immediate areas show elevated levels of radionuclide but no spread of contamination. Some dumping areas show leakages which are so small that they aren’t worth considering.
With that said, the US reported no excess levels of radionuclide, apart from one dump which contained high levels of plutonium and caesium. Although caesium isn’t highly toxic, its radioisotopes present a high health risk if released into the environment.
Therefore, the world’s oceans, unfortunately, make it into the world’s worst dumping grounds.
Shipbreaking On The Beach – South Asia
In 2014, just over 1,000 retired ships were sold for dismantling. Over 60% (657) of these tired vessels were sold to inferior breakers in South Asia where they were broken apart on tidal beaches! This represented almost 75% of the gross weight of all those 1027 ships.
Environmental Effects of Shipbreaking on the beaches of South Asia
In one way or another, the environmental effects of anything will always come back to cause a problem for humans, directly or indirectly. The initial problem of selling colossal structures to areas that are poor or have low-quality amenities will always mean that a human will have to carry out the work. In order to cut down on the costs of recycling their ships, big businesses utilise the vulnerable areas of the world which carry out these services on the cheap and the people who have to do the work risk serious injury and death. In 2014, at least 23 workers from these South Asian shipbreakers were killed.
Ships Can Be Toxic
The secondary impact to the environment is the recycling of these ships. Not one of these South Asian breakers comply with the current ship recycling regulations. The typical ship which arrives at one of the South Asian beaches for breaking can contain any one of the below materials which are toxic:
- Heavy Metals (mercury and lead)
- Mineral Oil (which can pollute food and drinking sources as well as causing explosions)
- Bilge Water (containing arsenic, oil, copper and lead)
- Ballast Water
- PAH’s – Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
- PCB’s – Polychlorinated biphenyls
- Tributyltin (TBT) – This biocide destroys living organisms.
Not only are these toxic materials, chemicals and compounds polluting the ocean and the beaches, but they are also polluting the air through burning waste and can be highly toxic to humans in the vicinity. For me, these hazardous conditions and the massive loss of life make these beaches some of the world’s worst dumping grounds.
Agbogbloshie E-Waste Dumping Ground – Ghana
The next time you think you need a computer upgrade, take a moment to imagine life as an Agbogbloshie worker. In Ghana’s, and the world’s, largest E-waste dump lies refrigerators, televisions, computers and more electronic waste. It costs a lot of money to recycle these items properly due to the hazardous materials inside. Many corporations send ship containers full of these to Ghana disguised as aid.
Workers aged from 7 – 30 work here for very little and come from poor local areas and countries such as the Ivory Coast. Although many of them arrive here in the hope to move on, after earning some fast cash, many of them are overcome by the polluted air and end up dying within their 20’s due to cancer and other illnesses. Many suffer from severe headaches, breathing difficulties and sleep problems (insomnia).
Image Source – Kevin McElvaney
Environmental Effects of the Agbogbloshie E-Waste Dump
The chemicals which are released from the burning and dumping of E-waste here end up in the local river. A German photographer named Kevin McElvaney visited the area to raise awareness of not only the environmental effects but mainly the affected people! He explained in an interview that the local river was slightly bubbling, black and full of e-waste and chemicals. He also said ‘I wasn’t able to get closer than a few meters (to the river), because of the strong toxic smell.’ This river was clear a few days later with most of the pollutants ending up in the Atlantic Ocean.
It is clear that we have an extremely resilient environment which can cope with huge amounts of pollutants, but it is only a matter of time before the levels of pollution start to exceed the levels of natural diluents.
It is important that all environmental services are carried out in a safe and law-abiding manner to help our planet cope with the strain of our daily processes.
Although our environment needs to be protected, it is also evident that humans in the poorest areas of the world are also directly affected by bad recycling practices. Unfortunately, due to their desperation for work and big businesses looking to save money, these dumping grounds are able to thrive and will only continue to grow in the coming years unless we all take steps to improve it.