Article Alert- Rethinking governance and value in commodity chains through global recycling networks

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 societyEnvironment 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 complexEconomic Geography. 2012;88:37-58. (View publication online)

Gregson, N., Crang, M. & Watson, H. Souvenir, Salvage and the Death of Great Naval ShipsJournal 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 consumerGeoforum. 2010;41:846-854.

Gregson, N. & Crang, M. Materiality and waste: inorganic vitality in a networked worldEnvironment & Planning A. 2010;42:1026-1032.

Gregson, N. Performativity, corporeality and the politics of ship disposalJournal 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 ChainsPsychology Press, 2004.

Norris, L. Recycling Indian Clothing: Global Contexts of Reuse and Value. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012.