Because Infrastructure Means The World
When I arrived on Maui, Hawaii in late 2001 I was floored to
learn that the island did not have a recycling industry; I got that
fuzzy feeling many of us have felt that consists of tunnel vision, loss
of breath and racing uncontrollable thoughts that consume the mind,
such as “how could this be? We are in the twenty-first century…” and
“is this for real? I must be dreaming—does it really take 20 plus years
for a environmentally advantageous and economically savvy idea to reach
another state?”. Other comments aside, this is actually true. The
metal, cardboard and cans used by the citizens and tourists of Maui all
go into the dump, or a barge that will ship the “waste” to someplace
else—someplace that isn’t Maui.
When learning more about the gigantic country of The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), I found that the infrastructure level of the country could support approximately three percent of its population of sixty-two million. Once again, is this real? Can the infrastructure of the fourth most populous country in Africa only support two million people when operating at one hundred percent? The DRC is a fine example of a highly unstable, dysfunctional colonial backwater that is unlikely to ever serve it’s exponentially growing population unless serious problems are solved. It is a typical African Country that continues to ship out it’s vast unprocessed resources to it’s “former” colonial master(s), and then receives them within a month’s time as commodities, product and processed foodstuffs. Do I blame them? Absolutely not, it is a common trend among countries in the “third world”: Another country such as France or Belgium builds up infrastructure in the country in order to gather resources, process those resources and sell them back to the country. It sounds fine and dandy, and quite easy—but it brings about major issues that concern the welfare of the resource pillaged country, who finds itself not in control of it’s own infrastructure and thus it’s economic health.
Resources & Other Reads
- The Recycling Industry in the European Union: Impediments and Prospects
Institute For Prospective Technological Studies
- Social movements, field frames and industry emergence: a cultural-political perspective on US recycl
Lounsbury et al. 1 (1): 71 -- Socio-Economic Review
- Practical Approaches to Green Solvents
The journal "Science"
- Overview of wastewater treatment and recycling in the textile processing industry
French Source, English translation.
I am not writing this essay to
solve all the world’s problems—they are far too numerous and complex
for my human mind alone to realistically comprehend and thus put forth
realistic solutions to them all, henceforth. I do however find a
distinct commonality between Maui and the DRC—two areas that lack
infrastructure to process and reprocess the items they use. They both
depend on foreign enterprises to process their products for they do not
possess the infrastructure to process their own waste / product.
Now the golden two part question: Who cares? And how do we solve the problems facing the world in respect to infrastructure and independence? People should care because if countries are not at least relatively economically independent, a world of localization (in terms of resources and industry) will be a lost cause. Localization of industry and the resources they process is key. As said above, I cannot realistically put forth a one-size fits all solution for such a large problem—but I never said I couldn’t try.
The one industry that is most likely to establish local manufacturing and the resources that are within it’s arms’ reach is the Recycling Industry. This industry first became popular in the 1980’s and is now the fifth largest industry in the United States. Ironically, it is also one of the least developed industries in the world. The concept behind the Recycling Industry is ingenious—reprocessed processed goods, and resell them as the resources they once were. People give up their unusable goods to the industry for free or a relatively small price, and the industry comes out with a huge profit margin. So how does this help the common man? How will this localize resources and keep money with local people?
Sources & Academic Links
- Recycling Metals For The Environment
Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 23(1):465, Abstract.
- Water recycling and resource recovery in industry: analysis, technologies
- Flexible Recycling And High-End Entrepreneurship
- Electronic waste recycling: A review of U.S. infrastructure and technology options
The scrap metal or paper products are sold to the recycling plant. This will put some money into the local person’s pocket. The
metal or paper is processed and resold on the market to a local factory
and/or local people to be processed into commodities and thus new
product. The recycling center makes a profit. The cycle continues as resources are being used and reused constantly.
As we can see above, this is a fine example of a local economy that is attempting to reach sustainability while attempting to increase economical health. Interestingly enough, the money is also recycled into the local economy—keeping the currency at home and in circulation. This is a fine example of an area that will experience growing economic health as the system gains strength. The last thing an economy wants to see is its resources (and thus money) leave the region and be sold back to them.