GIR Colloquium: The New Global Political Economy of Waste
Thursday 7th May, via Zoom.
We live in a world of steadily and sometimes rapidly diminishing resources. Except for one: waste. Wastes of all sorts are, in many ways, a new and expanding resource frontier, and the extraction of value from waste products may be central to a resilient global economy in the Anthropocene. From rare earth metals found in discarded mobile phones to scrapped plastic, economic actors (from waste pickers to multinational corporations) are competing to benefit from extracting value from these resources. Yet, serious risks in the processing and disposal of wastes remain, and local, national and global regulators are scrambling to keep pace with an ever-shifting global political economy of wastes. This talk draws out these themes, focusing on the cross-scalar and on-going effects on already fragile recycling markets of China’s decision to stop importing plastic and other types of post-consumer scrap in 2018. It finishes with delineating the struggles happening from city halls up to the UN over governance mechanisms and the extent to which they actually address the global realities of the stuff we throw away.
About the Speaker
Kate O’Neill is a Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California at Berkeley and holds a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University. She is known for her work on global environmental politics and governance and the global political economy of waste. Her work has been featured on radio shows such as Fresh Air, Here and Now and Marketplace, and quoted in the Economist and other venues on waste and recycling. Her most recent book, Waste, was published by Polity Press in 2019. She is a former co-editor-in-chief of the MIT Press journal Global Environmental Politics, and the current chair of the Environmental Studies Section of the International Studies Association. At UC Berkeley, she is the co-chair of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability.