If someone is engaging in environmentally destructive production in a third world country using materials from the first world, one might say the "externalities" of first world production are being imported to that third world nation. This is similar to way rare earth production shifted to China when other industrialized nations regulated it's environmental impact.
Which is to say the arguments here seem like a collection of double talk. "Denying agency" is the sort of complaint that can justify all sort of claims.
Edit: just broadly, a big part of the article is about exploding the story that the first world dumps its trash on the third world. He dramatizes the view, denigrates the view, gives some details intended to debunk the view but doesn't really say what happen instead. "It gets bought" doesn't seem like enough detail, to say the least. Plastic scraps go to Malaysia - are burned, actually recycled, what? If one is exploding other's myths, it seems like an alternative story would be merited.
I mean, it's difficult to argue somebody isn't dumping something on a poor country when that poor country legislates to ban it for health and safety reasons (and some exports continue with falsified manifests...). And as highly sophisticated as the operation might be to export car batteries to villages in developing countries where they can set up cottage industries re-smelting them for their lead, I'm not persuaded by the idea the organizations running the exports deserve more agency than kids dying of lead poisoning, and I'm entirely unconvinced by the author's argument that it's emotional attachment to cars we've assumed are going to be dismantled for scrap domestically that makes us queasy about the whole thing.
A lot of the time the waste is being exported in ships that would otherwise be empty, and the exporters are evading expensive legal disposal costs and massive taxes (a lot of organised unlawful dumping takes place closer to home of course, but there are costs and risks of doing that at scale too). And whilst I'm all in favour of taking a nuanced view of low income countries trying to make money from recycling, I also refuse to believe that someone who has written two books on the global waste trade over two decades of research has never heard of any incidents which don't fit his narrative of waste exports invarably being legitimately purchased by informed customers (really? he hasn't heard of the Khian Sea?)
Part of the problem is that so few bother to get rid of what they no longer use. They pack it around with them, unable to part with utterly useless things.
The interview mentions Japan. In this context, it's interesting to contrast Marie Condo's Tidying Up. She talks at length about how emotions play into our inability to toss things out.
Her system is simplicity itself. Begin by dumping all of your crap of a particular category into one big pile.
She describes the shock most of her clients experience after doing so. If you've never tried this yourself, I can highly recommend it. It's staggering how much crap even tidy people accumulate because it's so often spread out in various places.
It's not hard to understand how packing crap like this drives an insatiable urge for ever bigger houses and cars. You need more room to accommodate your every growing collection of crap.
The environmental consequences of this behavior are staggering. I'm not sure whether this is is something new or not, but it's plain as day that houses, cars, and yes people are getting bigger. Look inside those houses and cars, and you're likely to find an accretion of crap whose contents even the owners can't recall.
So there's a reluctance to toss things out, and there's a real lack of understanding about how much crap we actually have. Sounds like a first world problem to be sure, but one with bizarre emotional/psychological/environmental angles I don't think have really been explored that much.
Interestingly, that always has seemed to be to be about buying more stuff. You throw away, you buy more.
Especially the emotional way it is presented, that it is cathartic to get rid of possessions, without considering if there was another way to get rid of them but throwing them in the bin.
We should have much more respect for our things, and be mindful of how much waste and energy (and toil) is required to make something like a computer or a set of clothes. We should buy things that last and make the effort to repair them when they break... and spend more time on the toys we have instead of getting new ones.
Since china exports so much and we export so little, rather than send empty shipping containers back to china, we fill it with our garbage and send that back to china to recycle.
China exports goods. We export garbage to china. And it's been going on for decades.
At one time this was true of the trucking industry, too. Trucks would haul goods to a city, then carry that city's trash back out. It was considered better than running a truck empty.
Then they started doing it with food trucks, and the regulations came.
When people throw things out they have expectations for what they want to happen with those items, and those expectations conflict with what really does happen, and what is the ideal result.
Just become something involves a perfectly legal and straight-forward financial transaction doesn't mean it has no bad consequences.