Friday, June 13, 2008

How Much Does It Cost?

Take a stroll through WalMart or a Dollar Store and look at all the tons of cheap consumer goods available. Cheap toys, cheap clothes, cheap kitchen wares and cheap electronics. How can anyone produce a snow globe and sell it for $1.00? How can anyone produce an AM/FM radio for $4.99 or a DVD player for $29.00?? The reason these goods can get to the store at such low prices is by practice of "Externalizing Costs". Companies move their manufacturing to Third World countries to take advantage of cheap labor and lax manufacturing rules.

For example, if your company produces a product that causes large amounts of dioxin to be released as part of it's process then it is much cheaper to move to a country that allows the dioxin to be released freely than it would be to work in a country that demands that the dioxin be recovered and processes to limit toxicity. This is why most plastics used in electronics are created and molded in Mexico, China and India.

If your company want to sell cheap handmade quilts or rugs, then you set up your manufacturing plant in a country that has a labor force available with no governmental demands of real wages or worker safety. Pakistan and Turkey have been perfect for this because orphanages in these countries are overcrowded and so underfunded that they have become self supporting private businesses. Orphans have no protection under the law and can be made to work long hours for food and shelter only.

Next time you run out to WalMart to get cheap stuff, ask yourself how much it really costs.

6 Real Costs that are not included in the Price of Consumer Goods.

1) Pollution at the site of the materials origin. Water, air and ground pollution as a direct result of mining and plastics manufacturing and refining.

2) Work force health and safety. Exposure to mutigenic chemicals affect generations of humans exposed to chemical processing without regard to future complications. Underage workers literally worked to death without any legal protection. Workers killed by exposure, heatstroke and neglect. (1)

3) Landfill space and illegal dumping. Manufacturing processes cause huge wastes that must be landfilled for centuries or more commonly, just left where they are dropped.

4) Loss of wildlife habitat in areas surrounding manufacturing centers. Huge swaths of land are lost to pollution surrounding manufacturing plants. In many cases, this land will take hundreds or thousands of years to recover.

5) Immoral Energy Production. Third world manufacturing plants burn plastic waste products to create electricity and heat for use in their manufacturing plants. Tons of waste are pumped into the air without any attempt to clean the smoke.

6) End of cycle disposal. Once a gadget is done being used it must be disposed of and possibly recycled by poorly paid workers who are once again exposed to all kinds of nasty chemicals. (1)

7) Child Labor. Children, ages 5 to 14, are forced into the labor market as cheap labor to do repetitive and toxic jobs shunned by adults. These children are often chained to their work stations and routinely starved until they can't work anymore. Then, they are turned out to die on the street. Many of these children have been stolen from their families but most are sold or rented out by their parents for cash. (1) (2) This isn't confined to 3rd world countries. In the US, children work at dangerous jobs without access to schooling, all to keep prices down.

1 comment:

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