Whose value lies in the urban mine? Reconfiguring permissions, work and the benefits of waste in South Africa

Nate Millington, Kathleen Stokes, Mary Lawhon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

How waste should flow and who should pay for and benefit from these flows have never been easy questions. Recent efforts to recognize and capture value from (some) waste has led to new flows and new conflicts. In this article, we explore ongoing ideas and initiatives about reworking the wastescape in three South African cities. Various actors seek to capture more waste, make the wastescape more legible, and shift the costs of work. Despite ongoing rhetoric that frames waste as a new resource, interviewees note that much easily accessed waste is already claimed, and there are underemphasized costs associated with increasing the volume of collected waste. In this context, we consider efforts to change the wastescape as ways of reconfiguring existing flows and reworking ongoing arrangements of the state, industry, reclaimers, and workers. This includes changing who is permitted to access waste and create value. Across our interviewees, we find many contrasting ideas about what more desirable infrastructure might entail. We suggest that contestations over waste are not just about permission to create value but are underwritten by different visions of what infrastructure is and ought to be, who ought to know and govern it, and in whose interest waste flows.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Early online date5 May 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 May 2022

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