With the rapid development of technology comes a whirlwind of changing lifestyles, brought upon us by the phenomenon we call globalization. Globalization is defined as “a process of interaction and integration among the people, companies and governments of different nations […] driven by international trade and investment and aided by information technology” (globalization101.org). Since the turn of the millennium, information technology has developed at a much faster rate than before, and the volume of world trade doubled. The massive seas, while remaining relatively the same size, seems smaller now, as ships and planes enable us to travel long distances, and telephones and the internet allow cheap and instant communication.
Since it started, globalization have been led by the most developed countries on Earth; those with natural resources and the ability to use it to expand and improve their state. It brought the culture of consumerism from the post-war West to the rest of the world, and although globalization has allowed countries to develop themselves to gain a foothold in the world economy, the environment pays for their success. Since the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, technological advancement have allowed companies to grow even bigger than ever, and produce more than ever. The excess waste from both the production of their goods and the consumption by the people as well as the need to build and expand companies, businesses and cities to keep up with the demand destroys the environment. We have gone too far without heeding the consequences, and even now we turn away from responsible consumption.
We live in a time of throw-away consumerism- a time when companies are producing one time use DVDs so that consumers don’t have to deal with the “hassle” of renting and returning. The waste stream grows in volume and toxicity because corporations continue to profit by producing seemingly useless products, and they are not pressured to prioritize recycling, reuse, or substitute less toxic alternatives in their ingredients (toxicsaction.org). Responsible consumption and production is a Sustainable Development Goal because it is an issue that is intertwined directly with our lifestyles and needs to be addressed. We may not think much about throwing away things that we will not use anymore, but the collective impact of not consuming responsibly affects the whole world. In school, with a group of friends, I started a recycling project. Unable to find a place to keep them over the week, we wash the trash every day and take home the clean ones until the end of the week, where we collect the trash and give it to the recycling organization. The experience has heightened my awareness of just how wasteful my school was, and made me think of the millions of other buildings in the city, the country, and the world and how much waste they produce per day. Food and drinks are sold in one-time use plastic or paper containers. The chopsticks are wooden, the utensils are plastic. When students are done finishing their food (and even if they don’t), they throw it away. It becomes trash. The next day, students buy food, and throw the containers and utensils away. The next day, the same thing. And again. And again. Once the trash is in the bin, there is a sense that they have done their duty, that the trash is now thrown “away”. This is but a small part of the problem.
I live in Jakarta, Indonesia. 6700 tons of garbage from my city alone is dumped everyday into a landfill without being processed whatsoever. According the The Jakarta Post, 175000 tons of waste is produced by Indonesia in a day, and 69% of those go only in landfills. There are 200 landfills scattered across the country, yet only 10% of them have sanitary landfill technologies. Out of all the trash produced, only 1,9% is recycled, while the rest is left in mere open dumping sites which breeds more environmental pollution. As our waste and pollution increases, our natural resources decrease. This issue is not just happening in Indonesia. It is estimated that by 2100, the world’s population will produce three times of the waste that we produce in the current day. By 2025, waste generation will increase by 70%, which means “the waste from cities alone is already enough to fill a line of trash trucks 5000 kilometers long every day” (worldbank.org). The global cost of dealing with all that waste would rise to about $375 billion by that time, and the developing countries would have the sharpest cost increases. Having less time to cope with it, developing countries will struggle the most to have to manage the daily garbage, thereby increasing the disparity between them and the already developed countries.
The future, however, does not have to be this way. Some companies are now aiming for a “landfill-free” status, with more joining the bandwagon. Products should also be cruelty free and toxic free, and regulations need to be made and reinforced, and companies need to follow through with these regulations. They should also keep in mind on the amount of waste produced in all parts of the supply and production chain. If companies can shift to a green mindset and prioritize sustainability and ethics, it would be a massive support, and would also encourage their customers and employees to lead sustainable lives as well. Supporting green campaigns, or launching their own would also allow them to become sustainable. Becoming more transparent would also allow insight into what the company does, and by opening up to criticism would create pressure for companies to do better and become greener, to care more about the impact they have on the people and the environment. The bigger the company, the bigger the impact the shift to becoming greener will be.
Change is difficult, but the world is in a constant state of change. If paradoxes are possible, then why not a collective effort to create a more responsible and sustainable lifestyle? It certainly would not be a waste.