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Supply, Warehouse, Distribution: The three stages of recycling consumption work Katy Wheeler, The Open University

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Presentation on theme: "Supply, Warehouse, Distribution: The three stages of recycling consumption work Katy Wheeler, The Open University"— Presentation transcript:

1 Supply, Warehouse, Distribution: The three stages of recycling consumption work Katy Wheeler, The Open University

2 Consumption work and recycling Waste management systems in England and Sweden rely on the unpaid labour of the consumer By sorting their waste, consumers generate feedstock, which: – creates jobs in the recycling and processing industries – creates profits from the sale of materials and savings on disposal costs – reconfigures public and private sector responsibilities for the handling of household waste Consumption work interacts and interdepends with labour conducted under different socio-economic relations and across differing socio-economic domains

3 The three stages of recycling consumption work Supply Warehouse/storage Distribution

4 The research Sweden & England – Different historical commitments to recycling – Different demands placed on consumers – Different ‘Welfare Regimes’ (Esping-Andersen, 1990) 30 interviews with waste ‘experts’ in Sweden and England 2011 Visits to waste treatment and recycling facilities 30 household interviews in England 2012 Secondary sources for household recycling in Sweden (Ewert, et al 2009; Henriksson et al, 2010; Skill, 2008; Skill & Gyberg 2010)

5 Citizen- Consumer Don’t sort Sort Source separation Twin- stream Commingled Private WMC MRF Re-processing Private WMC Disposal - landfill English System Private WMC/ Municipality Producers

6 England: Supply Ron: Most of the stuff, well some of it, like the tins and the cardboard, are straight forward, it’s the plastics, you look for a label and if the film’s like that [plastic covering for bag of apples] Liz: See I would chuck that in non-recycling Ron: You think that... because that’s not stretchy, I do it that way, if it’s not stretchy it’s not recyclable but if it does then it is. Liz: Yeah I know you do, but I checked and I know that’s not, I remember. Ron: If it doesn’t stretch then it’s not recyclable, but if it does like that does, see I’d say that is! Liz: No it’s not, look it says ‘not currently recyclable’. Ron: But I’d say that is because there was a thing on the TV before that says that if it stretches and it’s crinkly, but if it’s like that [points to a firmer plastic packet for sugar-snap peas], it’s hard then it’s not. Liz: See that was ready to go in the bin for me, so we’re obviously doing something differently. You’re gonna cause a domestic now [laughs] Ron: If it’s hard and doesn’t stretch then it’s not recyclable but if it does stretch then it is, that’s what I was led to believe.

7 England: Supply Some Authorities collect plastic bottles, but they don’t collect other forms of plastic packaging, so they don’t collect the yoghurt pots and the margarine tubs. But people just see plastic, and lob everything in, so you get quite high levels of contamination, so when that material goes to the MRF, then often the reject rate is quite high, because the MRF is not designed to cope with some of these materials, or the contract with the MRF operator doesn’t require them to sort them out, or whatever. (UK Waste Expert)

8 England: Warehouse

9 England: Warehouse/Supply For certain industries, the cleanliness of the product is quite important, glass manufacturers and paper being the two most important because if you think about it, if you’ve got a small contaminant in glass once you’ve gone through all the smashing up so it’s sand, if you’ve got a stone in there that suddenly becomes a thousand, each one of those little grains of non-glass will affect a thousand bottles so that’s why they’re quite keen about it. (Independent Waste Consultant)

10 England: Distribution 1.Consumers must be aware what materials need to be left for collection on what day of the week 2.Consumers must gather up all those materials left in storage zones and transfer them to the council- provided containers and boxes. 3.These containers must then be placed at to the collection point, outside one’s property by a particular time of day Consumer effects an act of exchange transferring ownership of materials from the household to the local authority or waste management company

11 England: Distribution We have certain little flyers or stickers that we put on their green boxes saying your particular material wasn’t collected today because you didn’t put it out before 7 o’clock, or they have contaminated it (which is the official term) where they put one material, say paper or cardboard, where they shouldn’t have done then we will also notify them of that. The crew might take the material out and they’d leave it for the home occupier and then they’d give them the flyer and just say look, you left this out with this, and you can’t really be doing that. (Local Authority representative)

12 Citizen- Consumer Don’t sort Sort Re- processing Transport FTI Recycling station Municipal recycling centre Municipal Disposal - Incineration Swedish System Private WMC collection but material owned by FTI Private WMC/ Municipality Producers, members of FTI

13 Sweden: Supply No, plastics are a bit difficult... Because there are many different plastic objects in the household. It can be bowls and pots, and toys— everything. And when one thinks that it is plastic it is down in the plastic recycling. But it’s not, I know. But I think one is constantly faced with: What is this? Should it go into the plastic recycling? And then you wonder: Why should this plastic toy not be recycled?... I think that’s weird (cited in Henriksson et al, 2010, 2804)

14 Sweden: Supply “The recycling system is built around distinctions between packaging and other. A source of uncertainty is thus the structural mismatch between the basic categories among laymen on the one hand, and among professionals on the other. The professional system is based on the principle that plastic packaging is recycled, but not other plastic items. However, for the layman there is no good justification for plastic objects in general not to be recycled” (Henriksson et al, 2010, 2806)


16 Sweden: Warehouse At home I have under the sink different small bins where I sort my packaging, one for paper, one for plastic, one for glass, and one for metal and for paper we also sort newspapers here in Sweden but since the space under the sink is not very large and I live in a villa, I have a cellar where I can also do sorting so, for instance the newspapers that we have, I have a lot of newspapers at home, so I cannot store them under the sink. So in the cellar I have a paper packaging, like the one you buy when you go to the shop and buy food, I use those and put all the paper there and also glass bottles, wine bottles and so on, there is not enough room under the sink for those either so I have that in the cellar also. But for paper and plastic and metal, I can keep them under the sink for well a week or so, and then it gets full and I put it down in the cellar and I start all over. And then going to the recycling station, well I should go once a week but I don’t perhaps I go once a month or so but that very much depends on how much packaging you have and so on.

17 Sweden: Distribution


19 Desiree: Things like that make me really annoyed, when you get to the recycling station to throw away the stuff, and it is completely full. But what do you do? Am I supposed to carry it back home again? Interviewer: Would you? Desiree: No! Probably not. I would probably leave it beside [the containers]. And then it blows away all over town, and it is a lot worse than carrying it back home again. Or I would take it back home and throw it in the regular waste, because you get so annoyed. If they don’t take care of their responsibility, why should I? (Desiree, aged 22, Student, lives in an apartment, cited in Skill, 2008: 184)

20 Gender and the division of recycling consumption work tasks

21 Interviewer: Who takes the bins out? Barry: It tends to be me but not necessarily. Interviewer: Who would you say takes the main responsibility in the house for the recycling? Jane: It’s joint really. Barry: I mean we both do it, I probably am the one that errs on the side of not doing it, I probably put stuff in ordinary waste that shouldn’t, but not much. Jane: Hmm [nods in agreement] Interviewer: Do you then fish it out? Jane: Yes [laughs], but I’m more, I do the compost, you tend to empty the bins from here to outside, so it’s 50/50 really I would say, but sort of little domains within that.

22 Gender and the division of recycling consumption work tasks Olivia: I think it’s the one who takes most responsibility for preparing the food because it’s when you prepare food that you open all the packaging and so on, but then from... that’s the first step sorting out under the sink, but the next step is to take those bins to the recycling station and that could be another person. Interviewer: So there could be a division of labour within the home between sorting and transportation? Olivia: Mmm, mmm, yes it could be. But you could also say if you divide the responsibility for cooking so one day I do it, another day my husband does it so then it’s divided and if you go together to buy new food, if you buy a lot of food then you go together and perhaps you have your children with you also then you do the transporting also together, so then I think it’s difficult to say if it’s a male or female, it depends on how you divide other kinds of household doings, don’t you think? (Swedish Waste Expert)

23 Conclusions Recycling is a form of post-consumption work Consumers perform distinct tasks; supply, storage, distribution How they perform these tasks interdepends with labour performed across socio-economic domains/relations. Recycling consumption work is coordinated with existing domestic divisions of labour

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