A bicycle loaded with polystyrene (styrofoam) boxes in Shanghai, March 2013. All around the city a legion of informal recyclers buy plastic, cardboard, etc. from particulars and businesses alike for recycling. Some have devised ingenious ways to carry as much recycling material as possible. However, in the case of polystyrene, the amount of money a recycler can get for it is not calculated based on volume but on weight, and polystyrene is very light (it is composed of 95% air). According to the information gathered, a recycler of polystyrene may get 5 mao (0.5 yuan) per 500 grams. Since it is voluminous, transport is not economical. Trucks usually compress the material, reducing its size before transporting it to the recycling plants. Those without such means have no choice but to carry as much as possible with the old bike. At any rate, the impact of informal recycling on the economy must be considerable. Citizens at the service of the State.
Call for papers
Paris, June 12-13, 2014
Organized by the ASCA Cities Project in collaboration with SENAR and the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies, this interdisciplinary conference will bring together scholars from across the humanities and social sciences to explore the many ways in which garbage in its diverse forms and articulations is being produced, managed, experienced, imagined, circulated, concealed, and aestheticized in contemporary urban environments and across different creative and cultural practices. To what extent are contemporary cities becoming wastelands? In what ways are the global economics of excess and waste reshaping urban communities? How do the ever accelerating cycles of production, consumption, and disposal redirect urban flows of capital, commodities, data, and people? What new types and concepts of waste are produced by mechanisms of time-space compression and intensified global connectivity? How do imaginaries of trash or ruination figure in urban policy discourses and their counter-narratives? And what is the position of waste, dirt, and residue in a pervasive visual culture of excess?
Engaging with these sorts of questions, the conference will explore how, and under what conditions, contemporary forms/sites of excess, waste, and abandonment perpetuate but also sometimes counter the imbalances of power often associated with global cities.