Not Just Recycling the Crisis

Producing Value at a Soweto Garbage Dump

in Historical Materialism
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This article contributes to debates on the relationship between waste and value by exploring how the revaluation of waste at a dump in Soweto, South Africa, was transformed during the 2008 economic crisis. It critically engages Herod, Pickren, Rainnie & McGrath-Champ’s differentiation between ‘devalorisation’ due to material degradation and ‘devaluation’ due to prices being too low for recycling to be profitable, in order to develop three arguments. First, it is necessary to recognise how political mobilisation by reclaimers shapes the conditions for devaluation by affecting local prices for recyclables. Second, reclaimers’ struggles to monopolise control over waste as they govern their labour process may lead to materials that could be profitably reclaimed remaining wasted. Third, waste is not only revalued through global production networks. Analysing why reclaimers choose to revalue waste through either formal or informal circuits provides insights into how the economy is constituted and affected by crisis in postcolonial contexts.

Not Just Recycling the Crisis

Producing Value at a Soweto Garbage Dump

in Historical Materialism

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    Cited in Levin 2009.

  • 3

    Beall 1997p. 73.

  • 4

    Bauman 2004p. 59.

  • 5

    Chalmin 2010p. 2.

  • 7

    Levin 2009.

  • 8

    Birney and Goldstein 2008.

  • 9

    Kutner 2009.

  • 10

    Chalmin 2010p. 2; Packaging Council of South Africa 2011 p. 89.

  • 11

    Cited in Branigan 2009.

  • 12

    Cited in Emam 2008.

  • 13

    Cited in Levin 2009.

  • 14

    Cited in Levin 2009.

  • 15

    Branigan 2009; Kirchner and Thomas 2009.

  • 16

    Cited in Branigan 2009.

  • 20

    Packard 1960.

  • 21

    Baran and Sweezy 1966.

  • 22

    Gille 2007.

  • 24

    Rogers 2005.

  • 25

    Birkbeck 1978.

  • 27

    Chintan 2009; Horn 20092010 and 2011; Millar 2012; sewa 2009.

  • 38

    French 2009; Levin 2009.

  • 39

    Minter 2008.

  • 40

    Levin 2009.

  • 41

    Minter 2008.

  • 42

    Eminton 2008.

  • 43

    French 2009.

  • 44

    Plastics Europe 2009.

  • 45

    Levin 2009.

  • 46

    Lowitt 2007p. 5.

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    Marais 2011p. 147.

  • 48

    Fine and Rustomjee 1996.

  • 49

    Bond 2010; Marais 2011; Mohamed 2009.

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    Bond 2010p. 19; Marais 2011 pp. 124–5.

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    Mohamed 2009p. 22.

  • 52

    Marais 2011p. 130; Mohamed 2009 pp. 3–4.

  • 53

    Mohamed 2009p. 3.

  • 54

    Bond 2010p. 21.

  • 55

    Marais 2011p. 146; Mohamed 2009 p. 3.

  • 56

    Marais 2011p. 146.

  • 57

    Ashman Fine and Newman 2010p. 179.

  • 58

    Ashman Fine and Newman 2010p. 179; Baxter 2008 pp. 87–8.

  • 59

    Marais 2011p. 147.

  • 60

    Ashman Fine and Newman 2011p. 177; Makgetla 2009.

  • 61

    Ashman Fine and Newman 2010p. 179; Bond 2010 p. 23; Mohamed 2009 p. 23.

  • 62

    Packaging Council of South Africa 2011p. 3.

  • 63

    Packaging Council of South Africa 2011p. 37.

  • 64

    Lowitt 2007p. 58; Lowitt 2008 pp. 68 76; Packaging Council of South Africa 2011 p. 35.

  • 65

    Lowitt 2008p. 31 pp. 49–50; Packaging Council of South Africa 2011 p. 33.

  • 66

    Packaging Council of South Africa 2011p. 36.

  • 67

    Econex 2009pp. 8–25.

  • 68

    Lowitt 2008pp. 72 74 123.

  • 69

    Econex 2009pp. 8–25.

  • 74

    Interview with Buyer #2 17 February 2010.

  • 75

    Interview with Reclaimer #4 18 August 2009.

  • 77

    Chintan 2009; Horn 20092010 and 2011; Millar 2012; sewa 2009.

  • 78

    Horn 2009.

  • 79

    Dias 2016; Samson 2016.

  • 81

    Group interview #53 15 February 2010.

  • 82

    Group interview #52 27 February 2010.

  • 83

    Interview with Buyer #11 6 May 2010Group interview #53 15 March 2010.

  • 84

    Interview with Reclaimer #4 21 December 2009.

  • 90

    Harvey 2001pp. 108–9.

  • 92

    Samson 2014.

  • 93

    Group interview #13 27 August 2009.

  • 94

    Group interview #12 27 August 2009.

  • 95

    Interview with Reclaimer #57 8 January 2010.

  • 96

    Interview with Reclaimer #38 14 October 2009.

  • 97

    Group interview #11 26 August 2009.

  • 98

    Chintan 2009; Horn 20092011; sewa 2009.

  • 99

    Interview with Reclaimer #55 5 January 2010.

  • 101

    Interview with Buyer #2 17 February 2010.

  • 102

    Interview with Buyer #10 13 August 2010.

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