Dealing with the Ethics behind Industrial Waste

Budny 10:00
Charles D. Butler III (
factories. This proves this to be a strong unethical issue that
we must in hopes of it becoming ethical.
In the world today we are being faced with a serious
environmental problem that is putting the lives of many, as
well as the health of the earth at risk, one of which we are
the direct cause. The problem is the huge amounts of
industrial wastes going untreated, then being released into
the environment. All of these toxic, harmful materials are
having extreme negative effects on the ecosystem, and in
turn anyone or anything that comes into contact with the
contaminated resources. Recently, this problem has
acquired global attention. Addressing the problem, many
scientists, engineers and organizations have dedicated
money and time to come up with ways to better manage the
Bret Hart, a high-ranking engineer for the EPA, has
made it his personal mission to provide exposure to the
problem at hand, while combatting the moral issues it
comprises. His initial step of action involved traveling to
the targeted factories and taking notes on their hazardous
waste disposal policies. Upon analyzing his data and seeing
there is an actual threat present, he then takes readings from
surrounding water sources as well as air content readings,
and compares them to ones people had taken in previous
years. In his findings he sees that there has been a dramatic
increase in pollutants and unnatural substances found
throughout the surrounding environment. He then took his
research a step further, trying to find out the effects these
new substances were having on the surrounding
environments and communities. His findings were
shocking. Through a series of interviews with local doctors
and residents, Bret found that the untreated improperly
disposed waste was having a grave effect. Reports show
that in the recent years since the implementing of the
factories, a record high number of people have been getting
sick, and even dying. On a deeper note, while talking to
farmers he found that the water being used to irrigate the
crops was contaminated, resulting in dead or contaminated
crops. With all of this happening he was able to determine
that this was a morally unethical situation that we were
creating. This leads to exemplify the global need to correct
this morally wrong occurrence. Some of the technologies
we have now include, but are not limited to, sludge
treatment, CO2 capturing high-efficiency power
generation, and Smart Sponge 55. All of these technologies
have a common purpose of lessening or completely getting
rid of industrial wastes. Not only do they lessen industrial
waste, but they also turn the useless waste into useful
resources or energy. These technologies were made to stop
the negative effects of industrial waste, a problem faced by
many, but most directly those living in close proximity to
University of Pittsburgh, Swanson School of Engineering
As there are a separate set of rules that almost everyone
in the world abides by, engineers to have their own. Under
the engineering code of conduct is a specific section that
lists all engineers’ professional obligations. Here you will
find that engineers are encouraged to adhere to the
principles of sustainable development in order to protect
the environment for future generations [1]. This code
specifically deals with the problem at hand. With the
unmonitored disposal of industrial waste happening, the
environment is taking a major hit. Not only is this effecting
the way the environment will be for people of the future it
is also directly effecting it now. By not following this code
this incident automatically becomes one that is unethical,
showing its’ need for an immediate change.
Aside from a general code that all engineers must
follow, each specific field of engineering has its own
unique code. One essential part of the environmental
engineer’s code is to manage facilities in a manner to
protect health and safety of employees and of individuals
in surrounding communities [2]. Out of all the codes there
are this one hits the nail on the head in relation to the
problem being taking place. The fact that factory owners
feel that just because they place their factories in less
developed countries, then the people of that area are
seemingly of less value to society, is utterly unethical. Not
only are these huge companies blatantly ignoring set
standards by not protecting their health they are actually
killing them. Because of the severity of the situation
occurring here taking the stance that this is unethical and
needs drastic change, is undeniable.
The improper disposal of hazardous industrial waste has
been a problem for many years. It is only now gaining
international attention, because we have the knowledge and
technology to see how it is actually affecting our planet and
its’ inhabitants, humans. This problem, at one point, was
contained to primarily the US, because of our bustling
industry during times of war. Recently, with the expansion
of cheaper business overseas, the problem of improperly
disposing of hazardous industrial waste has now become a
global one. Business titans from the US, Canada, and
Europe saw big profit opportunities by moving their
Charles D. Butler III
production practices to large, urban third-world cities in
Asia. This move contained pros and cons. The companies
that decided to make this move profited a lot, but the reason
they were able to profit is where the problem lies. In Asia
and other places, companies cut building costs, paid
extremely low wages, and most often paid little to nothing
in proper waste disposal. Due to the improper care of the
industrial waste, the first to suffer were those in
surrounding villages. One community in particular, Greater
Noida, India, that made claims of chemical and other
industries dumping untreated waste, leading to polluted
water, in turn causing several life-threatening diseases [3].
Certain villages were affected more than others. The
increased number of illness’ and deaths drew attention
from environmentalists and doctors alike. A law student
from one of the affected villages, Arun Baisoya, tells that
“in the past five years 29 people have died of cancer, [and
he] suspects that the highly polluted water is the main
reason” [3]. This demonstrates how the immediate negative
effects of the industries was felt amongst the native people.
Reports even tell that the exporting of hazardous wastes to
lesser developed nations is escalating beyond control, and
that these ethical implications and environmental
consequences highlight the need for international controls
by more developed countries [4]. This displays how out of
control the situation has gotten and why it must be changed.
an estimated 125 million people in low to middle-income
countries, which is on the scale of malaria or tuberculosis
[6]. The effects of untreated industrial wastes is obviously
detrimental to humanity, but that is not all it affects.
Left untreated industrial waste can and will affect the
environment, along with the people. One commonality of
the environment being effected is its’ ties to the water, into
which most waste, aside from air-borne waste, is dumped.
When untreated waste enters the water it negatively
interacts with all marine life. One oceanography expert
reports, “[that] the Pakistani mangrove forest is shrinking,
due to sea pollution” [7]. This may seem insignificant to
most until learning that globally mangrove forests are
directly responsible for the economic benefits of more than
21 trillion dollars [7]. Another major way sea pollution
effects the environment is its direct relationship with global
warming. Due to the rise in sea level temperatures, caused
by pollution, the global temperature rises with it [7].
Showing another explicit example of how the effects of this
improper practice are clearly breaking ethical codes.
Because the problems occurring in the environment have
become so complex, such as climate and biodiversity loss,
waste management is more relevant than ever before [8].
Even though there has been much damage done there are
now mass efforts to try and lessen or rid the effects of
untreated industrial waste.
As this is happening on small scale, something much
worse is happening on a larger scale in Pakistan. In
Pakistan there is a city called Sialkot. Sialkot is Pakistan’s
industrial capital. There are over 1000 products being
produced here daily. With this heavy production comes 52
million liters of wastewater per day, most of which just
runs into the river, because shockingly, “[these] industrial
units have no wastewater treatment facilities” [5]. This
massive amount of untreated hazardous waste mixing with
the main source of bathing, drinking and cleaning water
causes problems for many people who use this water for
their daily lives. A well-known environmental scientist
tells that, “Waterborne diseases have increased about 200
percent in the last two decades” [5]. This is just the tip of
the iceberg. With seemingly an epidemic happening The
NCS (National Conservation Strategy) started taking report
understand what was happening, the results were shocking.
Reports indicated that about 40 percent of deaths were
related to water-borne diseases, 25-30 percent of all
hospital admissions were connected to water-borne
bacteria, and 60 percent of infant deaths were associated
with the same infections [5]. All of this data is a clear sign
that this is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If not
treated properly this type of thing can happen to anyone
around the world, making it an issue everyone should care
about. Contrarily, one article reports that wastes from
industrial dumps and other toxic sites affect the health of
As the world started to acknowledge that there was a
grave unethical problem occurring, many countries then
decided it was time put a stop to these ways and finally
change. One way in which countries started the change
movement was by creating organizations whose sole
purpose was to regulate factories waste management. A
specific example is the AIIP (Arab International Industrial
Projects Company) that welcomed Kabd, Kuwait’s largest
factory. AIIP was established with the “desire to preserve
the environment, [and] apply international solutions and
innovations to recycle environmental waste, especially
industrial waste” [9]. Also, directly battling the unethical
practices that were taking place, came the creation of
Ethisphere World’s Most Ethical Companies (WME) list.
This list rewards companies who are a part of it along with
having a winner, being named the Most Ethical Company
in the world. This helped battle issues by forcing
companies to look at their policies. It now includes 100
countries and 36 industries [10].
Aside from trying to change the way factories are run to
reduce waste, specific tools have been developed to
Charles D. Butler III
[1] (2013). “NSPE Code of Ethics for Engineers.” National
Society of Professional Engineers. (Online Article).
directly fight the waste as it is produced, and not requiring
the factory to change any of its’ regular routines. The first
of these, is a proposed CO2 capturing power generation
system. I found this one most productive and the best idea,
because it would be able to capture 100 percent of all CO2
emitted, thus generating no thermal nitrogen [11]. In
essence this machine would eliminate almost all of the
carbon-dioxide that comes from a factory, thus protecting
the ozone and the environment. Additionally this machine
has the ability to take something that was once a waste
product (CO2) and turn it into energy, giving the carbondioxide driven generator a 59.3% fuel-to-electricity
efficiency, compared to the 10.9% of a regular steam
turbine [11]. The next tool made is designed to be a low
cost way to battle untreated water waste. The product is
called “Smart Sponge 55.” The Smart Sponge is a 55 gallon
drum filter system that is fully self-contained, so no human
contact is needed [12]. A drum-filter system is a large
container with a several part filter inside, taking most
impurities out of the water. This product is extremely cost
efficient, so a company would have no excuse not to use it.
With multiple companies using it the amount of bacteria,
including e-coli (deadly bacteria), left in the water would
be significantly reduced. The last uses the emerging
technology of thermal hydrolysis advanced digestion [13].
Like the CO2 product, this is one that can take something
that was waste and make it useful. Using this new
technology 500,000 tons of sludge can be reduced to
60,000 tons, and the sludge used will go through the
digestion process in which the end product is methane gas,
which can be used to fuel gas engines [13]. With these
advances and changes in the way hazardous industrial
waste is handled, a once huge unethical problem is now
being slowly stopped.
[2] (2009-2012). “Environmental Professionals NREP
Code of Ethics.” National Registry of Environmental
[3] (09/17/2012). “Industrial waste making groundwater
[4] J. Singh, V.C. Lakhan. (11/1989). “Business Ethics and
the International Trade in Hazardous Wastes.” Journal of
[5] S. Mahmud. (08/12/2011). “Sialkot industrial, urban
waste: groundwater pollution causing serious health
[6] S. Leahy. (10/24/2012). “Pollution as big a health
problem as malaria or TB, finds report.” Global
[7] (11/16/2012). “Untreated industrial waste poisoning
sea.” Pakistan Press International. (Online Article).
[8] R. Krishnamoorthy. (6/21/2010). “The need of the hour
is environmental management.” The Hindu. (Online
[9] N. Fattahova. (11/20/2011). “Factory sets precedence
in waste management.” Business Insights: Global. (Online
As they say in many 7-step programs, the hardest part
in changing yourself is usually admitting you have a
problem. It is clear that our world is no longer living in
denial of the errors we were inflicting on the earth and the
ethic codes companies seemed to “forget.” We have
acknowledged that our actions harm others, and if left
unnoticed will eventually lead to us harming ourselves, and
the environment which we are responsible for passing
down to future generations. The moral issues that were at
hand could lead anyone to see why the world was in
desperate need of change. Problems could have gotten so
bad that the damage would have been seemingly
irreversible. Luckily, the negatives that have come with the
practice of improper disposal of hazardous industrial
waste, were exposed, and the world is now on the right
Charles D. Butler III
[10] (3/6/2013). “Waste Management Named to Ethisphere
World’s Most Ethical Companies List for the Sixth
Consecutive Year.” Business Wire. (Online Article)
[11] P. Sik Pak, Y. Duk Lee, K. Young Ahn. (11/06/2009).
“Comprehensive evaluation of a CO2-capturing high
efficiency power generation system for utilizing waste heat
from factories.” International Journal of Energy Research.
(Print Article). DOI: 10.1002/er.1635. p (1096-1108).
[12] (7/25/2011). “AbTech Releases new Multi-Use
Disposable Filter for Industrial Waste Water Treatment.”
[13] D. Morton. (1/20/2011). “Waste Won’t Go To Waste
At Plant.” Evening Chronicle. (Online Article).
I would like to thank everyone from SEA, who made
sure I stayed focused on writing my paper. I would also like
to thank my mom for me checking on me throughout this
week and the writing process.