RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2017


Treating Waste as a Resource

Research Group Affiliation(s)
The term 'waste' has an ontological ambiguity, e.g. as an excess, surplus, burden and/or resource. Its re-use is more feasible or thinkable for a surplus than for an excess (Bulkeley and Gregson, 2009). If a surplus finds no ultimate use, then its disposal imposes economic and environmental burdens which are often disproportionately distributed across race and income clusters. Since the late 20th century, waste has come to be associated with newer ontologies, e.g., as toxic chemical by-product of industrial activity; as double-edged burden of manufacturing essential pharmaceuticals. Waste is now seen also as surplus material from industrial manufacturing and consumption, e.g. originating in over-production or in by-products.
Valuing waste as a resource, the ‘waste hierarchy’ mandates an upwards shift from disposal (e.g. landfill), to recovery, recycling, re-use and ideally reduction at source (Hultman and Corvellec, 2012). 'Treating waste' has several meanings, e.g. designing, classifying, framing, segregating and metamorphosing waste. Its treatment can have various configurations for converting waste into outputs. Each facility can have different scalings as regard waste volumes, geospatial flows, public goods versus bads, their distribution and agents’ responsibility for such issues (Alexander and Reno, 2014; Reno, 2014, Levidow and Upham, 2016). Waste is inherently socio-material, shaped by waste regimes – historically specific modes of valorizing waste and of disciplining subjects (Cooper, 2009; Gille, 2010).

Waste flows are shaped by the interplay of waste regimes, policy agendas, regulatory pressures and markets, which readily cross national borders. Societal choices generally remain implicit -- but can become explicit through controversy or critical analysis. This session invites Abstracts on the above topics.

Alexander, C. and Reno, J. 2012. Economies of Recycling: Global transformations of materials, values and social relations. London: Pluto.

Alexander, C. and Reno, J. 2014. From biopower to energopolitics in England's modern waste technology, Anthropological Quarterly 87(2): 335-58.

Bulkeley, H. and Gregson, N. 2009. Crossing the threshold: municipal waste policy and household waste generation, Environment and Planning A 41: 929-945.

Cooper, T. 2009. War on waste? The politics of waste and recycling in post-War Britain, 1950–1975, Capitalism Nature Socialism 20(4): 53-72.

Gille, Z. 2010. Actor networks, modes of production, and waste regimes: reassembling the macro-social, Environment and Planning A 42: 1049-1064.

Hultman, J. and Corvellec, H. 2012. The European Waste Hierarchy: from the socio-materiality of waste to a politics of consumption, Environment and Planning A 44(10): 2413-2427.

Levidow, L., and Upham, P. (2016) Socio-technical change linking expectations and representations: Innovating thermal treatment of municipal solid waste (MSW), Science and Public Policy, doi: 10.1093/scipol/scw054
Reno, J. 2014. Motivated markets: instruments and ideologies of clean energy in the United Kingdom, Cultural Anthropology 26(3): 391-415.
Instructions for Authors
To be considered for the session, please submit a title, author details, and an abstract of up to 250 words to L.Levidow@open.ac.uk by Monday 13th February 2017
Call For Papers Deadline
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