The global transportation network that humans have evolved is cheap … Really Cheap! It is astonishing to think that container transportation is SO inexpensive that it saves money to ship even our (American) trash to the other side of the world. Actually it is our recycling, and only a small part of it – the electronic items – that are shipped so far according to this article, but it illustrates the impact of surprisingly inexpensive bulk shipping on what happens to our discarded high technology goods, and how the concept of recycling can go wrong. If there are workers somewhere who will accept being poisoned on the job and paid a dollar or less for a day’s work to pick bits of metal from our trash, then the cost of shipping that trash to them is not an obstacle.
I call that an amazing testimonial to our global transportation network, and a real eye-opener. Will we be able to sustain such a low cost system in the future? That will require much invention, but I can foresee careful development of sailing ship technology, for example, along with solar and wind-generated electricity, that could result in low cost transportation persisting beyond the decline of fossil fuels.
As always I welcome your comments. Please recycle as responsibly as you can. — Tim