What is the circular economy, exactly? Is it capitalism with better accounting? Is it about scaling up recycling and reuse? Is it about consuming less, and producing less, or consuming and producing fundamentally differently? Does it go so far as to advocate for a degrowth or steady state economy, where the loop on production and consumption is totally closed?
The Ocean Conservatory’s Call for Mass Incineration in Asia: Disposability for Profit, Fantasies of Containment, & Colonialism
The Ocean Conservatory would like to burn 80% of the waste in coastal Asia with US-made incinerators. According to a wide range of experts and grassroots organizations from around the world, that’s a problem.
The Power Behind Disposability: Why New York City’s ban on polystyrene was vilified, sued, and reversed
On July 1 New York City banned disposable Styrofoam containers. First they were sued over the decision, and last week the ban was overturned. What is the big deal? The answer, not surprisingly, is profit. Industry saves money through the creation of disposables. And disposables are only environmentally acceptable if they are recycled. Except they aren’t.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Ocean Cleanup array, designed to clean plastics from the ocean like a baleen whale, is one of these good intentions: experts in marine plastics, including myself, say it’s a bad idea.Technological fixes like the Array do harm to the larger project of ending plastic pollution, which is a complex social, environmental, and economic problem. It is also going to damage and kill marine life.
New Articles: The moral economies of recycling in England and Sweden & Compost, domestic practice, and the transformation of alternative toilet cultures around Skaneateles Lake, NY
There are two new waste-related articles in the latest issue of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space.
Josh Lepawsky’s work on “The changing geography of global trade in electronic discards” shows that over time, the global circulation of electronic waste is characterized by developing countries are exporting to developed nations. The data that lead to this analysis are now in an interactive format (cartograms) that allow viewers to see transactions 1996, and again in 2012.
Keeley Haftner’s public art, two shrink-wrapped bails of recyclable materials, was inspired by her time as a sort-liner at the city’s local recycling plant. Now vandalized, draped in a black tarp and bearing a sign that states, “Our tax dollars are for keeping garbage OFF the streets”, the installation has started a dialogue about waste and art in public spaces.
Industry developed disposability through planned obsolescence, single-use items, cheap materials, throw-away packaging, fashion, and conspicuous consumption. American industry designed a shift in values that circulated goods through, rather than into, the consumer realm. The truism that humans are inherently wasteful came into being at a particular time and place, by design.
Participatory design is a practice where ordinary users are part of the design process to help ensure the results meets their needs and values. Thus, both the process and the products tend to be different than a top-down approach to creating (and wasting) objects. Love in E-waste adds another twist, in that rather than designing something from scratch, it starts with a waste product.
Are there ways–through art–to acknowledge or conceptualize waste that would do more than celebrate such reuse or recycling? How can artists, philosophers, theorists, activists, and others produce new ways to acknowledge or envision events and phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, radioactive wastelands like Fukushima or Bikini Atoll, the animal wastes of feedlots, the water wastes of fracking, or the mountains of trash produced by consumer culture?