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The dumping of plastic waste – a green crime?

Only an estimated 9% of the world’s plastic waste is recycled. A further 12% is burnt and the rest, 79% is buried in land fill or just dumped.

China used to be the main dumping ground for the world’s rubbish, but it banned the import of plastic waste in 2017, which then lead to a surge in the amount of used plastic sent to other countries in South East Asia such as Malaysia.

In Malaysia, much of the world’s used plastic is either burnt, releasing toxic chemicals into the air or dumped in rivers, polluting local water supplies and ultimately the oceans.

The BBC recently made a documentary about the harmful effects of the vast plastic-waste mountains in Malaysia, caused by wealthier countries such as the UK not dealing with their plastic waste at home, but rather outsourcing its disposal to a poorer country, because it’s cheaper to do so.

green crime plastic waste
A pile of plastic waste somewhere in Malaysia

From a traditional criminology perspective there is nothing necessarily ‘criminal’ about a company in one country engaging in ‘law evasion’ by exporting plastic waste to a second company in another country with slacker environmental protection laws and then that second company burning or just dumping the waste –   it is up to each individual country to establish its own environmental laws, after all.

However, this case study may well be an example of a ‘green crime‘ from a green-criminological perspective – in the above example company A is knowingly doing something that will result in pollution and thus do environmental harm – even if it is thousands of miles away.

NB Malaysia recently announced that it will no longer accept imports of foreign rubbish, and has threatened to return 3000 tonnes of non-recyclable plastic waste back to the U.K. other countries.

Sources 

The Week, 8 June 2019

 

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State crime and green crime – possible short answer exam questions

State crime and green crime are two of the most difficult topics within Crime and Deviance for students, below are two possible short answer questions (with answers) which could come up on A-level sociology paper 3

Outline two sociological explanations of state crime (4)

  • A modernization theory perspective would argue that it is only really ‘failed states’ which commit state crimes. This mainly happens in poorer countries where people see gaining government power as a means to siphoning off as much money for themselves as possible, hence the reason why there are higher levels of fraud and corruption in developing countries.
  • A dependency/ Marxist perspective would argue that ‘war crimes’ such as those by the British government/ army in Iraq in 2003 happen because nation states use violence on behalf of TNCS (e.g. oil companies) to secure valuable resources for them in far-away places.

Outline two reasons why people who commit ‘green crimes’ often do not get punished (4)


  • The first reason is that what green criminologists regard as ‘crimes against the environment’ are not regarded as illegal by the traditional legal system’ – for example, driving a large car, chopping down trees, even producing nuclear waste are all ‘legal’ under UK law, but are regarded as ‘crimes against the environment’ by more deep-ecological green criminologists.
  • The second reason is that companies may engage in law evasion to avoid laws which protect the environment in developed countries…. They may simply take their toxic waste, which is illegal to dump in the UK, to a country like Ghana and dump it there, where it is legal.

I’ll be covering both state and green crime as part of my upcoming ‘last minute sociology webinar series’….

 

For more information on Revision Webinars, please click the above gif, or check out this blog post.

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The Environmental Costs of Fast Fashion

Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil, at least according to Stacey Dooley’s Google investigation during her latest BBC documentary: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets.

The program is only available on iPlayer for another couple of weeks, but what I’m going to do here is link into the people and issues covered in this excellent documentary.

Issues brought up in the documentary…

  1. Fashion is a surprisingly polluting industry – the reason it comes in at number two is because of all of the pesticides, fertilizer, and not to mention the sheer volume of water it takes to make many of our most basic threads, cotton being the biggest problem, given its popularity. Check out Lucy Siegle’s writings for more info.
  2. Stacey visits Kazakhstan to witness one of the biggest human made environmental disasters in history. The country used to be home to the Aral Sea – which used to span 68K square kilometers. HOWEVER, now most of it has dried up because of dams being put in place to supply water to massive cotton plantations in neighboring countries. The region is now a desert plagued by sand storms.
  3. It takes a staggering amount of water to produce cotton… 15 000 liters to grow the cotton in one pair of jeans, for example.
  4. There’s the obligatory trip to Indonesia… where we see clothes producing factories churning out chemical polluted water into local rivers, and local slum dwellers washing their clothes in said water with strange skin rashes. This article by Al Jazeera covers the same ground.
  5. Not one single Chain store (e.g Primark etc.) accepted an invitation to appear on the show, and even the Department for the Environment gave a ‘standard reply’ not focused on fashion, but rather on their plastic bag policy, strongly suggesting all of the Corporations involved in fashion and the UK government couldn’t give a toss about the environment.
  6. Stacey did interview a few fashion vloggers, thinking that these ‘influencers’ could be a way to get consumers to switch to less polluting threads. They seemed extremely ignorant of the high environmental costs of ‘fashion as usual’, but willing to push the moral imperative to shop for more environmentally friendly brands. HOWEVER, only one of the four interviewed actually took this up on her vlog.

Relevance to A-level Sociology…

mainly relevant to Global Development the material in this documentary is yet more supporting evidence for TNCs not promoting development, and both the Aral Sea disappearance and the river polluting factors in Indonesia are good examples of green crime.