Via Reid Lifset, editor of Journal of Industrial Ecology (JIE):
Over the past two decades governments around the world have been experimenting with a new strategy for managing waste. By making producers responsible for their products when they become wastes, policy makers seek to significantly increase the recycling-and recyclability-of computers, packaging, automobiles, and household hazardous wastes such as batteries, used oil motor, and leftover paint-and save money in the process.
This strategy, known as extended producer responsibility (EPR), is the subject of a new special feature in Yale University’s Journal of Industrial Ecology. The special feature examines the use of EPR across diverse scales-from countries to provinces and states-and investigates work underway in the U.S., the European Union, Canada, China, Brazil and the State of Washington. The application of EPR to e-waste is a particular focus of the research in the special feature.
The Journal of Industrial Ecology is a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal, owned by Yale University, published by Wiley-Blackwell and headquartered at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
Articles in the special feature are freely downloadable for a limited time at: http://jie.yale.edu/EPR
Partial support for this special feature was provided by Nestle Waters North America with additional funding from Reverse Logistics Group Americas LLC.
This is Dutch photographer Bas Princen’s staggering panorama of the Zabaleen settlement in Cairo, Egypt’s capital. These residents, living in an area known as garbage city, store, sort and recycle trash to earn their living. The photograph was included in the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam and an exhibition at Storefront Art and Architecture in New York.
In the February 2011 issue of Dwell, as well as the May-June 2011 issue of Utne Reader, readers saw an unforgettable image of “one of the most efficient recycling systems in practice.”
RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency) is a young yet accomplished project located within a construction waste recycling center in Philadelphia. They have twelve hours left in a fundraising campaign to open the trash-stream residency program to applications from artists in the Spring of 2013. They hope to hire staff with the money and become a viable arts-trash organization. Artists have long sourced art supplies from the waste stream, for economic reasons, to leverage the history and patina of used and discarded items, and to specifically comment on waste and discard practices. However, curb-side picking is not nearly as efficient or rewarding as wading through a compiled collection of waste at recycling centers, transfer stations and dumps, most of which are inaccessible to artists and members of the public, particularly in urban areas. RAIR is giving artists access to the waste stream and to space to make their art.
For those of you new to crowd sourcing funds, third party systems like Kickstarter and Indiegogo usually ask fund raisers to provide thank you “perks” to donors. The perks for the RAIR project fundraiser are artistic Discard Studies in and of themselves, including a stash of Sanborn Maps they found in the trash heap, and a Taxonomy of Trash poster by Tim Eads.
More about RAIR from their website:
“RAIR (Recycled Artist-In-Residency) is a group of dedicated individuals working to connect art and sustainability. We provide artists with salvaged materials and comfortable workspace while increasing awareness about the waste stream.
This project came out of requests from Philadelphia-based artists wanting access to recycled materials at Revolution Recovery, LLC – a construction and demolition recycling facility in Philadelphia. They’ve been informally donating materials to artists for years, and have dreamed of starting a structured program. A group of people started thinking about the potential for establishing a formal residency program at the facility. We’ve been dedicating time and energy into the project for a while now, and believe RAIR is ready to play a key role in creating awareness about art and sustainability in Philadelphia.”
Friday, November 16 from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CST for a FREE webinar focused on plastics cycling!
Registration is free and open to all!
Less than 30% of plastics used in bottles and less than 9% of all plastic waste is recycled in the United States. While municipal recycling programs have traditionally focused on bottle recycling, other plastics – including film and rigid plastics – compose the majority of available plastic waste. As communities seek to reduce waste sent to landfills and meet higher diversion targets, there is increased interest in including these additional plastics in recycling programs. Through the presentations and discussion in this webinar, we hope to explore plastics recycling and its future potential from a variety of perspectives.
Samantha MacBride, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs at CUNY – Baruch College and author of Recycling Reconsidered: the Present Failure and Future Promise of Recycling in the United States. Her current research is on the contested politics of municipal organic waste management in the U.S. and Canada. She focuses on how landfill gas recovery, industrial-scale composting and anaerobic digestion, and conversion technologies are differently understood and advocated for in relation to threats of climate change by social movements, business sectors, and the state.
Also joining us will be Keefe Harrison, consultant at Resource Recycling Systems, where she brings her direct experience in facilitating cross-sector solutions to the increased recovery and recycling of packaging. Formerly, Keefe served as the director of communications for the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, the project director for the Southeast Recycling Development Council, and as a local government assistance team member for the North Carolina Division of Environmental Assistance and Outreach. She has worked in the waste reduction and recycling field since 1998 and is an active national speaker and published author on recycling issues.
Tim Smith, Director of the NorthStar Initiative for Sustainable Enterprise, will facilitate.
This article was originally published in eTOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, Spring 2010.
In laymen’s terms, recycling is “good for the environment.” It involves “doing your bit” to help “save the Earth.” Yet recycling requires high expenditures of energy and virgin materials, and produces pollutants, greenhouse gases and waste; it creates products that are “down-cycled” because they are not as robust as their predecessors, nor are such products usually recyclable themselves. Of the fifteen to thirty percent of recyclables that are retrieved from the waste stream, “almost half” are buried or burned due to contamination or market fluctuations that devalue recyclables over virgin materials (McDonough and Braungart, 56-60; Rogers, 176-179; Luke, 115-135; Rathje, 203-7; MacBride; Ackerman; EPA; Grassroots Recycling Network, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Materials Efficiency Project and Friends of the Earth). Furthermore, recycling infrastructure creates a framework where disposables become naturalized commodities instead of allowing practices of waste redesign, reduction or elimination.
How is the schism between the popular perception of recycling as “good for the environment” and its less environmentally sound industrial processes maintained? By critiquing the visual culture of recycling campaigns, I argue that the meaning of recycling has been decontextualized, narrowed, and naturalized, thus functioning as a commodity-sign. That is, recycling has been “abstracted from [its] context and then reframed in terms of the assumptions and interpretive rules of the advertising framework” through which it is promoted (Goldman, 5). I identify three main characteristics of the recycling commodity-sign. First, the individual, rather than government or industry, is represented as the primary unit of social change. Secondly, recycling is depicted as an act that ends at the blue bins, cutting out the industrial side of the cycle. Finally, recycling is symbolized as something that benefits the environment “in general” rather than as a specific form of waste management. Overall, I argue that recycling, instead of being a solution to environmental or waste crises, in fact constitutes a crisis of meaning that allows environmental degradation and derisory waste practices to continue.
The Lone Activist
An intensely muscled male torso crushes a can between his hands. Underneath this image, in bold black text, it simply reads: “Recycle.” Part of the California Department of Conservation’s 2004 recycling campaign, this humorous poster is aligned with various recycling superheroes, including Max Man (Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation), WOW! Man (Western Oregon Waste), and Captain Recycle and the Ozone Friends (Ican Design, UK). Each campaign implies that one person can—and routinely does—“make a difference.” The superhero trope is one way that recycling promotes what some scholars call “individualization,” or an individual response to a collective problem (Maniates; Szasz). By promoting elective individual actions, recycling (and green consumerism in general) becomes an asocial, apolitical form of environmental response that forecloses the apparent need for dealing with solid waste at a more systemic level (such as industry or government) with more systemic means (collectives, policies or institutions).
A second genre of ads, such as one that reads: “Recycle! Save the planet you love so others can love it too!” (Andrew Meguelez, 2008), graphically emphasize yet mystify the relationship between individual actions and the global environment. Recycling is thought to help “save the planet.” Such discourse introduces a crisis of scale, and thus of agency. How can individuals possibly contend with the Herculean task of saving the planet, especially when the tools afforded to us are blue bins and pop bottles? The problem and the solution do not correspond.
In addition to the discourse about local actions and global crises, there is a second way in which this crisis of scale plays out via recycling. For every ton of municipal solid waste, seventy tons are produced by industry (Rogers, 4). Of municipal solid waste, only thirty percent is residential waste (Wagner, 3). Of that, forty percent is recyclable. In the US, the average recycling rate is thirty-three percent (EPA, 3). Thus, much less than half a percent of waste generated in the United States is “managed” through household recycling. This is not to say that household recycling is rubbish, but that it can only affect the waste proper to its tiny domain. Part of the issue is that municipal, and particularly residential, solid waste has been naturalized to mean solid waste in general, making industrial solid waste invisible; municipal waste is much more visible in our daily lives, in recycling campaigns, and in news stories. As such, campaigns can imagine the work that household recycling does on a global scale.
The Magically Closed Loop
Another way that the visual culture of recycling maintains the gap between environmentally-motivated individual recycling and its less environmentally sustainable material processes is by abstracting and mystifying the industrial side of the “loop.” A poster by Red Squirrel Design that depicts “The Recycling Process” is just one example: bottles, cans, and paper enter a round, floating machine with dials and steam, and emerge at the bottom as bottles, cans, and paper. The process that transforms the objects from themselves into themselves seems magical. Another example is the “Recycle. It’s Good for the Bottle. It’s Good for the Can” campaign. In this series, aluminum cans dream of becoming baseball bats, and plastic water bottles dream of becoming fleece jackets. In both cases, the industrial process is acknowledged, yet represented as a magical, non-specific transformative process. “Recycling” is homogenized into one general procedure, insinuating that all recycling is created (environmentally) equal, even though the smelting process for aluminum is very different from the bleaching process for paper. Furthermore, while the poster indicates a quick technological alteration, there are many steps in each process, several of which occur in other countries, and all of which have their own environmental costs. Finally, the abstraction of the industrial process allows recyclables and recycled materials, household environmentalism and industrial processes, to be made equivalent, when if fact they have radically different materialities, motivations, and environmental impacts. The absence of particulars about what enters the industrial process (virgin materials, energy, unpaid household labour, outsourcing contracts to Third World countries) and what its “externalities” are (pollution, toxins, and downgraded commodities) is the condition of possibility for the “closed loop” recycling symbol itself.
Environmental Activism, period.
Recycling is rarely represented as an industrial process, or as a form of waste management. Instead, its primary meaning comes from its status as a form of environmental activism. Yet just as recycling is abstracted from issues and processes of industry, government, or patterns of consumption, the activism associated with recycling is also abstracted and made equivalent to environmental activism in general. The inclusion of plants, animals, and beautiful landscapes in campaigns implies relationships between recycling and forest preservation, animal rights, ecological conservation, pollution control, and other environmental impacts. This appropriation of a sort of Gaia hypothesis, whereby every type of environmental act is linked to every environment, which promotes the act of recycling as one that “saves the earth.”
The Commodity Sign
While space has not permitted a detailed or nuanced investigation of different messages, representations, and strategies of recycling campaigns, a trend has nonetheless emerged from the cases covered here. Instead of representing recycling as a form of industrial waste management, recycling is depicted as a form of individualized environmental activism “in general.” All parts of this narrative rely on the abstraction, mystification, and misplaced equivalence of the recycling process so that the practice of recycling can come to mean the same thing as the recycling symbol; in laymen’s terms, recycling is “good for the environment” because it reuses waste in a closed-loop cycle. The three chasing arrows of the universal recycling symbol becomes a commodity-sign for recycling.
A commodity-sign is formed when an image of a commodity becomes a signifier of a certain experience or meanings, such as when red sports cars stand in for “sexiness” (or, alternatively, “mid-life crisis”). The thing being signified –“sexiness”— is abstracted from the complex relationships, statuses, and contexts it exists in and is attached to a product or practice that has also been detached from its complex material and social world. To quote Robert Goldman in Reading Ads Socially, “[t]he semiotic reductionism necessary for producing a currency of commodity-signs involves transforming complex meaningful relations into visual signifiers. It then turns the relationship between signifier and signified into one of equivalence, so that the visual signifier can be substituted for the signified of the product” (6). The commodity-sign shifts values from the social realm onto commodities, or in this case, onto the practice of recycling. Through recycling campaigns, “the original totality of the signified slips from view” and recycling becomes, first and foremost, a type of environmental activism rather than a form of waste management or an industrial process (Goldman, 18).
This situation is systemic, and so does not have to be intentional, as Clara Rodriguez’s well-intentioned artwork demonstrates. The designers that produce campaign material are not given a handbook about the industrial process of recycling and asked to impede waste reduction or community formation. The legibility of a campaign depends on its ability to be recognized by the public, which in turn depends on the advertisement’s use of meanings that are already in common circulation. Yet using this interpretive currency and the creation of commodity-signs leads to an impoverishment of public language and meanings. In the case of recycling, this has acute consequences. For example, a poster advocating for the reuse of scrap paper reads, “This piece of paper used to advertise a frisbee game. Now it serves a different purpose. Recycle.” In this case, “reuse” is called “recycling;” it is, after all, an environmentally motivated act involving recyclable waste. Through this slippage, “recycling” comes to denote its “competitors” in solid waste management, such as reduction, redesign and reuse. The narrowing of descriptive language for different types of environmental participation results in the obfuscation of waste alternatives by positing recycling as other alternatives, even when there is a hierarchy of environmental effectiveness between regulation, reduction, redesign, reuse, and recycling. This is a sign of the success and ubiquity of recycling as a commodity-sign, and signals a political failure to differentiate between ideologically diverse environmental actions.
This impoverishment of meaning, language, critical discourse, and action describes the proper crisis of recycling. Unlike many other crises, however, the danger is in the situation’s stability rather than instability. Very few, if any, mainstream alternatives to recycling exist that can match its support, funding, and infrastructure. Furthermore, there is little room afforded to critical discourses that seek to find or fund such alternatives, partly due to the reasons outlined above. The crisis of recycling is that recycling has become the favoured and institutionalized form of environmental activism. As the Lastituto Recide campaign so clearly states, “If you don’t recycle, recycle.” It’s a no-brainer. It’s the obvious way to go. Recycle.
Ackerman, Frank. Why Do We Recycle?: Markets, Values, and Public Policy. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1997.
The Container Recycling Institute. “Graphs: Beverage Container Statistics.” Accessed 2007. http://www.container-recycling.org/all_rates.htm
EPA. Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2008. Washington, D.C.: United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2009.
Goldman, Robert. Reading Ads Socially. London and New York: Routledge, 1992.
GrassRoots Recycling Network, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Materials Efficiency Project and Friends of the Earth, Welfare for Waste: How Federal Taxpayer Subsidies Waste Resources and Discourage Recycling. Athens, GA: GrassRoots Recycling Network,1999.
Imhoff, Daniel. “Thinking outside of the Box.” Whole Earth. Winter, 2002.
Luke, Timothy W. Ecocritique: Contesting the Politics of Nature, Economy, and Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
MacBride, Samantha. “Tonnage and Toxicity: Visible and Invisible Solid Waste Problems in the Contemporary United States.” Coles Science Salon Series. New York University, New York, 3 Nov. 2008.
Maniates, Michael. “Individualization: Plant a Tree, Buy a Bike, Save the World?” Confronting Consumption. Ed. Thomas Princen, Michael Maniates, Ken Conca. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002. 43-66.
McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York, NY: North Point Press, 2002.
Rathje, William, and Cullen Murphy. Rubbish! The Archeology of Garbage. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2001.
Rogers, Heather. Gone Tomorrow: The Secret Life of Trash. New York: The New Press, 2005.
Szasz, Andrew. Shopping Our Way to Safety: How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007.
Wagner, Phillipa. Waste Management in the City of Calgary. Calgary, AB: City of Calgary, 2009.
From the book release: “For some, recycling is a big business; for others a moralised way of engaging with the world. But, for many, this is a dangerous way of earning a living. With scrap now being the largest export category from the US to China, the sheer scale of this global trade has not yet been clearly identified or analysed. Combining fine-grained ethnographic analysis with overviews of international material flows, Economies of Recycling radically changes the way we understand global and local economies as well as the new social relations and identities created by recycling processes.
Following global material chains, this groundbreaking book reveals astonishing connections between persons, households, cities and global regions as objects are reworked, taken to pieces and traded. With case studies from Africa, Latin America, South Asia, China, the former Soviet Union, North America and Europe, Economies of Recycling shows how marginal economies are producing new social collectives and projects around local and global decay, often with waste labour bringing high monetary reward as well as danger.
Replacing the persistent notion of globally peripheral countries being ransacked for raw materials, which are then transformed into valuable commodities in the North, this timely collection debunks common linear understandings of production, exchange and consumption and argues for a complete re-evaluation of North-South economic relationships.”
‘In this superb collection, what had been dismissed as mere waste or simple recycling is found to be immensely productive in the creation of a second tranche of commodities, complex labour relations, new global linkages, the creation of value and highly sophisticated analysis and theory. Only from this point can debate on these topics be genuinely called informed.’
- Daniel Miller, Professor of Material Culture, University College London
‘Garbage dumps in Rio, textile recycling in northern India, mountains of discarded IT equipment in China, global circulations of uranium: this remarkable collection really lifts the lid on the global sociologies, politics and geographies of waste and recycling – in their widest possible sense. The result is an unprecedented richness in understanding how the recycled use of all manner of materials works to sustain large swathes of our world and why this matters fundamentally for our planet’s future. Economies of Recycling is a genuine Tour de Force!’
- Stephen Graham, Professor of Cities and Society, Newcastle University
Economies of Recycling: The Global Transformation of Materials, Values and Social Relations edited by Catherine Alexander and Joshua Reno is published by Zed Books, priced £19.99/$35.95, ISBN 9781780321943.
For more information or to request a review copy please contact Ruvani de Silva on 020 7837 8466 or ruvani.de_silva [at] zedbooks.net.
Publication Deadline: 2012-07-18 (in 18 days)
Recycle has to be intended here not as a new vague for aesthetic or marketing trends, but as re-use, “life cycle extension” for materials and objects. This new cycle affect the materiality of the existing, its functions and its significations, thus creating an hybrid entity adapted to contemporary needs.
Architectural reuse, rehabilitation, reconversion exist from long time ago but they are at the centre of heritage and architectural study issues only since recently. Nowadays, recycle and sustainability are ever more at the centre of architectural and urban planning researches and practices. The disproportionate loss of land has severely undermined our environment, it becomes necessary to reflect on how design could lead to the improvement of the existing architectures, rather than building new ones.
How does the role of cultural tourism, globalization, politics and economic issues influence the treatment of a building such as recycling? After the rejection of postmodernism and the increase of new contemporary forms of architecture, how does an architectural gesture could enhance the existing fabric without a mimetic approach? From sustainable construction techniques and building strategies, to sustainable recycling of demolition waste, to sustainable preservation and restoration, Boundaries wishes to offer in the fifth issue an insight in all the best practices and researches.
All kinds of approaches to this topic are welcomed, but must be focused on the XXIst Century. Papers can be case studies oriented, or methodological and/or theoretical in focus.
The deadline for submission is July 18, 2012.
Contributors are invited to submit a title, an abstract (from 400 to 500 words, and three images), and a short biography stating their affiliation and professional interests (maximum 100 words).
Official language for paper presentation is English. The style, grammar and phrasing should be edited by a person with an excellent command of English and a good understanding of architectural terminology.
All submission of abstracts should be sent by email to email@example.com (up to 15 Mb) before July 18, 2012.
The papers will be selected by the editorial board and subjected to evaluation with the blind peer review system. The authors will receive an answer before July 24, 2012.
Articles should be sent to the editorial board, in their definitive form and with illustrations (free from reproduction rights), before August 12, 2012.
Articles length should be between 400 and 700 words, notes and bibliography included. Contributions must be original and should not have been previously published, even in part.
All articles must be illustrated (at least ten images, drawings, sketches, renders or other).
Boundaries is a quarterly international magazine on contemporary architecture, with texts in English and Italian. The first issue, July – September 2011, is centred on the Contemporary Architecture in Africa, the second, October – December 2011, on the Architectures for Emergencies, the third, January – March 2012, on the Architectures of Peace and the fourth, April – June, on The Other City.
The aim of the project in Boundaries is to offer a panoramic and critical view of the architectures that today face, in many different ways, the challenges of modernity, and of sustainability intended as a balance between problems of cultural, environmental, economic and social nature.
One of our readers, Nils Johansson, a PhD student at Linköping University, Sweden, has a new co-authored article in the Journal of Cleaner Production on the technosphere (the part of the physical environment affected through building or modification by humans). They remind us that the technosphere includes waste, discards, and the circulation of precious materials which produce a myriad of possibilities for recovery:
The aim of the article is to conceptualize the relocation process of metals from the lithosphere towards the technosphere (our mines are moving into the cities, a process Jane Jacobs described in her work). Furthermore, we try to bring order and categorize stocks of secondary metals according status (active/in-active), concentration and location. Recovery of these stocks, for example debris as well as informal recovery of metals is brought into discussion. Stealing (collecting) in-active metals from example abandoned houses should not be compared to stealing in-use copper cables.
Stocks of finite resources in the technosphere continue to grow due to human activity, at the expense of decreasing in-ground deposits. Human activity, in other words, is changing the prerequisites for mineral extraction. For that reason, mining will probably have to adapt accordingly, with more emphasis on the exploitation of previously extracted minerals.
This study reviews the prevailing concepts for mining the technosphere as well as actual efforts to do so, the objectives for mining, the scale of the initiatives, and what makes them different from other reuse and recycling concepts. Prevailing concepts such as “urban mining,” however, are inadequate guides to the complexity of the technosphere, as these concepts are inconsistently defined and disorganized, often overlapping when it comes to which stocks they address. This review of these efforts and their potential is therefore organized around a new taxonomy based on the umbrella concept technospheric mining, defined as the extraction of technospheric stocks of minerals that have been excluded from ongoing anthropogenic material flows.
An analysis on the basis of this taxonomy shows that the prevailing mining initiatives are generally scattered and often driven by environmental factors, in which metal recovery is viewed as an additional source of revenue. However, development of technology, specialized actors and new business models and policy instruments, could lead to technospheric mining operations becoming a profit-driven business.
One of the joys of being a discard scholar is that our objects of study can be so insistent they challenge disciplinary methodologies. In an earlier post, I wrote that because trash is “inherently contested, multiple and fragmented… discard scholars need methodologies that don’t tidy up the mess and make trash one kind of stable, universal thing, described and solved forever.”
Josh Lepawsky and Charles Mather take this methodological challenge up in geography. They followed e-waste, and though, “We thought we’d end up in dump sites… we actually ended up in production sites.” The literature had prepared them for a dump, but in the end, they wound up at a wedding.
Lepawsky and Mather use e-waste to illuminate a theory of boundaries and edges rather than staying with the more traditional concept of beginnings and endings. They found that boundaries and edges were more appropriate to describe the material relational effects of people, things, researchers, places pertaining to e-waste. This way, instead of starting at a recycling bin in Canada and ending at a recycling depot in India, they followed their objects past and through processes that turned e-waste into something else. “Now e-waste, now jewellery, now love, now a wedding.” Lepawsky and Mather’s work looks different than what traditional commodity chain research because their beginnings and endings are not known ahead of time.
Scholars rarely explicitly consider the temporal aspects of research (beyond “finding time” to do it). When I took my methodology courses, no one brought up how to know when to stop a train of thought or cease following an object of study. Because modern waste, and particularly the heavy metals and plastics in e-waste, last thousands of years and travel thousands of miles, the temporal and geographical questions of research must become central to our studies.
The video above is based on the following article: Lepawsky J and Mather C. 2011 From beginnings and endings to boundaries and edges: rethinking circulation and exchange through electronic waste Area 43 242–249.
Lepawsky has a new article forthcoming in Geoforum on “Legal geographies of e-waste legislation in Canada and the US: Jurisdiction, responsibility and the taboo of production.”
Electronic waste (e-waste) is thought to be the fastest growing segment of the overall solid waste stream in many countries. Between 2003 and 2010 more than half of all Canadian provinces and US states passed legislation specifically to govern the disposition of e-waste. The purpose of this research is to investigate the legal geographies of this legislation. The principle findings are that the work of jurisdiction around e-waste in Canada and the US places financial responsibility for waste management on consumers not producers. Thus, contra the explicit intent of e-waste legislation, a regime of extended consumer, rather than producer, responsibility is emerging and waste generated as a result of design and manufacturing decisions remains taboo. But the implications of the legislative governance of e-waste go beyond questions of regulatory success or failure. At stake in the legislative governance of e-waste is the assembling of the social in a legal way that generates distributions of action that are democratized only so long as they limit public decision making to waste already produced and marketized only so long as they extend the ability of manufacturers, e-waste recyclers, and paramarket organizations to appropriate value. The work of jurisdiction around e-waste suggests jurisdiction can be more multiple, distributed, and patchy than prevailing theory allows.
Josh Lepawsky is Associate Professor and Charles Mather is Head of Department both at the Department of Geography, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.
The latest edition of the Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers contains an article by Mike Crang, Alex Hughes, Nicky Gregson, Lucy Norris and Farid Ahamed entitled, “Rethinking governance and value in commodity chains through global recycling networks.”
The dominant political-economic approaches to global trade flows known as global value chains and global production networks offer powerful insights into the coordination and location of globally stretched supply chains, in particular from global South to North. By way of both conceptual and empirical challenge, this paper highlights flows of end-of-life goods from the global North towards the global South. This involves the disassembly and destruction of goods to recover secondary resources for further rounds of commodity production. Global recycling networks take things of rubbish value (often spent or end-of-life goods) and turn them back into resources in other places and production networks. They operate not through adding value, but by connecting different regimes of value. The paper does not set out a new conceptual framework, but asks what challenges the rekindling of value in used goods creates for global commodity chain analysis and what insights those approaches bring to looking at waste flows. The examples of used clothing and end-of-life merchant ships are mobilised to illustrate the dynamics of global recycling networks and to challenge prevailing commodity chain approaches in three key areas – supply logics and crosscutting networks, value and materiality, and inter-firm governance. We argue that resource recovery engenders highly complex and brokered forms of governance that relate to practices of valuing heterogeneous materials and that contrast markedly with the modes of coordination dominated by big capital typical of global production networks for consumer goods.
Other publications by these authors, some of whom have been collaborating for some time, include:
Crang, M. Commentary. Negative images of consumption: cast offs and casts of self and society. Environment and Planning A. 2012;44:763-767. (View publication online)
Gregson, N., Crang, M., Ahamed, F., Akter, N., Ferdous, R., Ahmed, F. & Hudson, R. Territorial agglomeration and industrial symbiosis: Sitakunda-Bhatiary, Bangladesh as a secondary processing complex. Economic Geography. 2012;88:37-58. (View publication online)
Gregson, N., Crang, M. & Watson, H. Souvenir, Salvage and the Death of Great Naval Ships. Journal of Material Culture. 2011;16:301-324. (View publication online)
Gregson, N., Crang, M., Ahamed, F., Akhtar, N. & Ferdous, R. Following things of rubbish value: end-of-life ships, ‘chock-chocky’ furniture and the Bangladeshi middle class consumer. Geoforum. 2010;41:846-854.
Gregson, N. & Crang, M. Materiality and waste: inorganic vitality in a networked world. Environment & Planning A. 2010;42:1026-1032.
Gregson, N. Performativity, corporeality and the politics of ship disposal. Journal of Cultural Economy. 2011;4:137-156. (View publication online)
Gregson, N., Watkins, H. & Calestani, M. Inextinguishable fibres: demolition and the vital materialisms of asbestos.Environment and Planning A. 2010;42:1065-1083. (View publication online)
Hughes, A. The Geographies of Commodity Chains. Psychology Press, 2004.
Norris, L. Recycling Indian Clothing: Global Contexts of Reuse and Value. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012.