The Social Cost of Environmental Solutions

Citation:

Dauvergne, Peter, and Genevieve LeBaron. 2013. "The Social Cost of Environmental Solutions." New Political Economy 18 (3): 410-430.

 

Authors: Peter Dauvergne, Genevieve LeBaron

Abstract:

This article assesses the social consequences of efforts by multinational corpor- ations to capture business value through recycling, reusing materials and reducing waste. Synthesising evidence from the global environmental justice and feminist and international political economy (IPE) literatures, it analyses the changing social property relations of global recycling chains. The authors argue that, although recycling more would seem to make good ecological sense, corporate programmes can rely on and further ingrain social patterns of harm and exploita- tion, particularly for the burgeoning labour force that depends on recyclables for subsistence living. Turning the waste stream into a profit stream also relies on prison labour in some places, such as in the United States where the federal gov- ernment operates one of the country’s largest electronics recycling programmes. The ongoing corporatisation of recycling, the authors argue further, is devaluing already marginalised populations within the global economy. Highlighting the need to account for the dynamism between social and environmental change within IPE scholarship, the article concludes by underlining the ways in which ‘green commerce’ programmes can shift capital’s contradictions from nature onto labour.

Keywords: multinational corporations, environmental justice, political economy, recycling, labour, e-waste, global recycling chain

Topics: Development, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Health, Land Tenure, Multi-National Corporations, Political Economies Regions: Africa, Americas, North America, South America, Asia, South Asia Countries: United States of America

Year: 2013

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