Safeway's Waste Problem

Introduction

Irregular disposal of hazardous waste as well as the subsequent health and medical implications forms the world’s most perturbing waste problem. The problem influences the spectrum from an individual level to multinational corporate entities, which have reportedly been adopting erroneous policies and procedures of pharmaceuticals and other hazardous wastes disposal. The recent case where Safeway Company’s grocery store in California was intercepted for inappropriately disposing hazardous waste and customers’ medical information has elicited widespread criticism. The 99 Cent Only Stores reportedly violated rightful policies and procedures by routinely and systematically transferring its hazardous substances, such as medicine and batteries, to local landfills in Los Angeles. A lawsuit was then filed against the company by the district attorneys of Alameda County, where a fine of $10 million was imposed on the company for the massive irregular practice across more than 500 Safeway, Vons, Pavilions and Pak’n Save stores and distribution centers (Hower). It is alleged that the company has perpetuated the indecent practice for more than 71/2 years, causing untold adverse effects to the environment (Hower). Current research paper studies the global waste as a world problem, with Safeway’s Company as a case study. It unveils the company’s new policies and procedures that it will adopt in an attempt to find a lasting solution to the menace. It also highlights the company’s reasons why it could not consider the option of using biodegradable packaging products to help mitigate the global waste situation.

Contemporary Debates Taking Place about the Topic/Problem

The issue of waste disposal has raised endless debates among environmentalists who have unanimously termed it as a global disaster. The approach has modified the nature problem to become more political than a scientific and technocratic one. It occurs due to the fact that the remedial steps have to be suggested for political influence more than technocratic input. For example, in America the concerns about environment have been increasingly salient to the American administration since 1960s (Friedrich 21). It impelled anxiety in the public regarding the use of pesticide DDT and the effect of its work was not just significant to the chemical fertilizer industry but also brought the environment more resolute into the American political consciousness (U. S. Government Accountability Office).

Further deliberation on the matter caused the issue of the Environmental Protection Agency legislation shortly after the DDT had been banned due to its detrimental effects on the environment (U. S. Government Accountability Office). Notably, since the formation of EPA the subsequent debates on environment have become more political and to some extent compromised the rationale of the matter. Apparently, such politicization of the environment has become a reason of considering the question from both philosophical and theological points of view, resulting in debates at the level of the state versus market and science versus faith. It is presumed that such conflicting scenarios cause perforations in the legal system, through which companies like Safeway have eluded the conventional practices and the law (U. S. Government Accountability Office).

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Looking at the indiscriminate style in which all organisms affect the environment, one would find it ironical that the debate about the future of its protection can become more a divisive factor than a uniting one. Today the strategy about ‘greening’ is tantamount to ‘liberality’ and conservation has faced serious denunciation from conservatives. Such situation has posed serious uncertainties about the future of environment, locally and globally. However, it is the time when the potential of environmental to pose dreadful dangers to all humanity is real. In any case, the situation could be improved if the concerned parties took prudent remedial steps to fight the threat.

From a spiritual perspective of environment, the Ganda hone de rahi hai, a river that is a symbol of spirituality among the Hindu, is also under intense pollution (Friedrich 49). It is caused by indiscriminate felling of trees, which has resulted in uncontrolled flooding in Ganga region. The floods dump all kinds of dirt into the river ranging from garbage, silt and mud to carcasses and industrial refuse, among others. The situation has raised protests among the inhabitants of the area who have resolved to take drastic measures to combat the situation in order to reinstate the river to its original spiritual and environmental purposes.

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A Root Cause Analysis

In the case of Safeway, the root cause of waste problem is attributed to negligence and ignorance of the company’s management. It has been revealed that the management of the company was aware of the problem but did not do anything to improve the situation. Such behavior of management can be regarded as ignorance because its members knew about the existing environmental compliance program and county laws concerning refuse disposal. Nevertheless, they illegally ‘routinely and systematically’ sent hazardous wastes to landfills. According to the inspection’s report carried out by the Alameda County district attorneys, the Safeway Company also violated the conventional ethics by disposing the confidential information of their pharmacy customers (Hower).

It was a serious contravention of not only the law, but also a violation of cultural and religious norms. A revelation of another person’s individual private information especially, relating to health status and against his or her wish, is a serious violation, which is compared to public intrusion into a purely personal subject. Therefore, the political and judicial intervention fined the company to the amount of $10 million and other collateral damages caused within the seven and a half years, during which the irregularities were committed (Hower). The move could also have financial implications, since it would amount to wastage of time and resources to generate fresh information of the affected pharmacy customers, should the need arise.

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In addition to that, it is also a weakness on the part of the authorities who failed in their role of law enforcement, considering the fact the inappropriate disposal of wastes lasted for a long time before it was revealed. It is probable that relevant authorities were fully informed about such mistake but they ignored it. Another possibility is that some officials may have colluded with perpetrators to circumvent the provisions of law to their own convenience. It is a case of enormous corruption, which took place for a period of 71/2 year (Hower). It may also have been perpetuated by dumpster drivers and other employees from both the government’s and Safeway’s side.

The worst noted cause to the problem is the use of non-biodegradable products, such as plastics and Styrofoam by Safeway Company. Such materials have the potential of decomposing for many years; hence contributing to large landfill masses accumulation that makes the location lose its aesthetic look. In addition, they also leach toxic substances into the ground causing harm to the soil and its constituents. In its defense, Safeway Company claimed to have declined using biodegradable products for reasons of lower durability as compared to plastics. In addition, the biodegradables are prone to easy damage especially when they are exposed to water. Nevertheless, such claims are insufficient reasons to justify their disposal irregularities.

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Some of the manufacturing industries that were visited, most of which are found in California, stated that the laxity in law enforcement agencies is the only disadvantage which helped such entities as Safeway to elude punishment for such a long time. However, some of them dejected the idea of resorting to the manufacture and use of biodegradable products, subjecting their quality to ridicule. They, however, welcomed diverse mechanisms that would be embraced to recycle non-biodegradable products describing the Post-Consumer Waste Paper as a timely idea, which needed to be embraced (Waste Management World).

Solution to the Problem

The lasting solution to such waste problem requires strict measures from government agencies concerned with environment, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency. They have to develop proper and clear modalities that will be implemented to mitigate the consequences of disposal of refuse. The government through legislation also needs to develop acts on environmental protection to curb the eventualities of improper waste disposal (Waste Management World).

Apart from that, the management of Safeway Company should conduct an induction course where their staff is given proper training on handling wastes and safeguarding the confidential information that they obtain from their pharmacy customers. Similarly, the company should seriously consider using biodegradable products. They have a potential to degrade over a short period of time with the help of such microorganisms as bacteria, fungi, protozoa, among others (Shinkuma 19). Moreover, they do not leave toxic residue as compared to plastics and Styrofoam; instead they take the shortest time possible to biodegrade. They have no harm both to the soil and to the aesthetic nature of the site.

Domestic and Foreign Obstacles That Stand in the Way of a Solution to the Problem

Necessary efforts have been put in place to enforce the aforementioned solutions to the problem. However, conflict of interests witnessed in the political arena forms the major impeding factor to the success of such well-intended efforts. Where politicians themselves have vested interests in businesses that propagate the menace, it can be difficult to eradicate the problem, since they will antagonize the enactment of the laws that prohibit use of non-biodegradable products (Shinkuma 24).

Another obstacle is lack of adequate initiatives for galvanizing the public to enthusiastically perform their environmental responsibilities. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in collaboration with the state’s department of public health should formulate mechanisms of running sensitization programs about environmental conservation (Shinkuma 87). It falls within their prerogative to sensitize the public about certain environmental implications following the use of some products. The same should extend to the corporate entities, which deal with assorted products, especially those that are unfriendly to the environment.

Lastly, the unclear government policies on use of biodegradables are another barrier. If the government had serious intentions regarding saving the environment from the menace of degradation it would develop necessary remedial policies for that matter (U. S. Government Accountability Office). In any case, its reluctance in questions regarding the enforcing of existing policies on environment may have serious negative consequences.

Other Solutions That Are Being Tried or Considered Currently and Why They Have not Been Successful

Global efforts to control the manufacture of non-biodegradables worldwide have persistently been hindered by the monopolistic states, which deal with the manufacture of such environment unfriendly products. For instance the 2010 international convention on environmental conservation that took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, was categorical about implementing global measures that would mitigate the increased global Greenhouse effect due to intensified industrialization (Environmental Paper Network ). Unfortunately, there were conspicuous disagreements in reaching consensus on contentious issues highlighted in the convention. The controversy that emerged in the convention deals with the question on what has impeded the global efforts of finding a lasting solution to the confounding environmental issues.

The other efforts that have been considered by the federal government of the US involve intensifying efforts of encouraging recycling of non-biodegradable products by using them in production of other consumable products. It can be enhanced through the program known as Post-Consumer Waste Paper (PCWP), which makes paper from the remnants of papers that have already been used by the consumers. The (Environmental Paper Network ) has proven that such paper uses approximately 42% less energy, releases 37% less carbon dioxide and its pollution to the environment stands at 46% less compared to virgin paper. Such efforts are credible and should be embraced by all companies.

Implementation Strategy

  1. Since the problem of waste disposal, especially with the case of Safeway Company, has been attributed to non-effective government policies and implementation procedures, the government needs to formulate new policies that will solve the existing problem (Porter 43). Both policies on disposal by individuals and by corporate entities should be intensified in order to restore sanity among the public and discourage such unethical behavior. The government should also take strickt measures on those responsible for execution of the policies and implement mechanisms that would prevent cases of corruption, which lead to compromising of the policies and creating possibilities for contravention. Similarly, the government has a responsibility of incorporating the subject into the curriculum of the nation so that the sensitizing program becomes a continuous learning process commenced right from elementary levels of study. It will ensure that children acquire knowledge about their environmental responsibilities and begin practicing them while they are still young.
  2. Secondly, there should be intensified public sensitization about the use and proper disposal of refuse and consequences of wastes to the environment. It could be reached through the media channels, conferences and social gatherings among other forums. It should be done consecutively between six to ten months after which outcomes will be appraised before determining the next stage (Porter 62). Clear repercussions to purported perpetrators of the vice should also be hinted in the audio-visual and written information that is in circulation. The public should also be given a platform through which feedback and personal suggestions can be channeled to the concerned parties.
  3. Apart from that, the judicial systems should use their mandate to prosecute outright perpetrators of enacted laws on environmental conservation. For instance, in case of Safeway Company, one may link such persistent perpetration in seven years to negligence of judicial system for failing to track the company and prosecute it. Cases of corruption must also be prevented in courts to ensure justice is done and mistakes are absolutely corrected. It is believed that the public will not violate the existing laws when it realizes that strickt punitive measures are being administered to those who acts against the prescribed instructions, unlike when they realize that nothing occurs when regulations are not followed.
  4. Finally, the manufacturing policies should be enforced where greater emphasis should be laid on production of biodegradable and bio-compostable commodities (Shinkuma 64). They are friendly to the environment and hence, will reduce the environmental hazards by a remarkable degree. Similarly, clear punitive measures should be highlighted in case there are manufacturers who may in the process act against such provision. Another method of discouraging the manufacture of the said products is through imposing high taxes on the manufacturers, which ultimately increase the cost of production to the levels where manufacturers will not be guaranteed optimal profit. Besides, industries that deal with recycling of non-biodegradables should be encouraged by being taxed less as compared to those, which manufacture them.

Conclusion

Environmental pollution remains a global menace with far reaching effects. Efforts by the international community to find a lasting solution to such perplexing issue remains futile, following the complex nature of the environment and the diverse magnitude of pollution to which it is susceptible. Furthermore, the fact that different parts of the world experience different climatic conditions makes the whole issue more complicated to solve. It is caused by the fact that what some specific areas may consider hazardous to the environment might be of greater significance in another ones. 

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However, the underlying concern is that environmental degradation is on the rise and is associated with massive effects and global warming being one of them. There is a great danger of climate changing adversely due to the persistent pollution that has altered crucial factors, on which the climate is dependent. It will have a direct impact on the lives of people around the world as it will affect elements that foster living, such as sunlight, rain, air, soil and water among others. Consequently, the life will also change significantly, as people will suffer from the consequences of their own activities. The most important issue in such case is whether that condition will be reversible or not. Definitely, such situation may turn out to be irreversible, since climate change is gradual and mild so that it is difficult to realize the processes that are happening. People are only exposed to possible outcomes when the condition would have taken ages to be effected.

If people could realized the degree of danger they expose themselves to by perpetuating environmental pollution, they would do all possible to overcome it. It is unfortunate that measures that governments initiate expected to provide a shield against the negative effects are still frustrated by the same people for which they are made. The worst thing is that despite the fact that perpetrators of the environmental pollution may be countable, the total population is much bigger. Besides, the other living organisms, such as animals and plants also form the considerable part of the environment.

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Governments are the only source of hope given their prerogatives in formulating policies and enacting laws that can regulate people’s activities from causing more harm to the environment. If proper laws were carefully formulated and prudently implemented, pollution could not be a necessary theme for discussion. All the massive pollution and the effects being witnessed occur due to the flaws in the formulation of laws or in their enforcement. It is obvious that when good laws are irregularly enforced, they may have negative influences. The challenge therefore lies in the ensuring that laws serve the purpose for which they were formulated. For instance, in case of Safeway Company, laws were seriously bent, creating possibilities for the company to act illegaly. That is why the company was allowed to perform unlawful operations for seven and a half years before it was intercepted. Moreover, the kind of crime they committed did not require forensic audit, since their acts were visible and could be easily detected. According to it, the question arises what may have occurred in case the crimes committed were secret and required intensive investigative processes to reveal the truth. It was a serious shortcoming from the side of the law enforcers.

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Besides, it is solely the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens and resources from the harm that may occur as a result of erroneous activities by lobby groups, manufacturers or middlemen.

 

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