the informal economies of today’s gleaning…the first phase or the right end in itself?

by cindy

all three of these articles examine the informal economy of gleaning – the processing of waste product outside a formal system.  we saw a similar set of practices occurring in 19th century new york, an informal economy that was eventually absorbed into a formalized system of waste management.  a key question that seems to be posed in all of the articles is whether or not the right approach to solving the waste problem in these emerging megacities is to embrace the current informal system or to try and formalize it through some sort of new process of state involvement.  of course circumstances have changed quite a bit since new york’s early example: waste product is no longer primarily organic as it was previously, as today’s waste is the byproduct of the mass consumption model.  another difference is that in the early new york model, all of the waste being “recycled/gleaned” was actually the byproduct of the local economy.  in today’s world, a lot of the waste these gleaners are picking through actually originates elsewhere.  i’ve been thinking a lot about this and am very curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on this topic.

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1 Comment»

  jessica wrote @

I think here it is also worthwhile to consider waste as *more* than just a byproduct – especially when trying to understand its place in contemporary globalized economy. In other words, what if it’s not just the byproduct of the mass consumption model as you say, but more fundamental to how mass consumption works?


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