Columnist Nick Kristof makes an eloquent point in the other day's NYT in favor of sweatshops as creating jobs in third-world countries. Factory jobs, he points out, are at least in the shade and not atop a steaming landfill, where junk collectors work. And as long as conditions and pay are up to reasonable standards, sweatshops can be far, far better than the alternative. This isn't news, really; in fact, it's the same principle that guides Edun's work in Africa, where they produce many of their clothes with the long-term goal of creating sustainable apparel industries.
On a related note, Kristof's accompanying photo of a Cambodian trash mountain brought to mind the filthy Chinese city of Guiyu, where many of the West's (and the East's) outdated electronics go after they die: