Since the 1st January 2018, China has closed its borders to the import of 24 types of detritus (including paper, plastics, textiles). For several decades since the country opened up to international trade, this waste, coming mainly from the United States or Europe, was recycled by various actors ranging from family craft factories to national industrial enterprises. But China no longer wants to be “the trash of the world” and now wants to choose the materials that will enter its soil according to their quality.

This international news reveals the globalised economy of waste and recycling which has been gradually structured on the opportunities offered by international trade and of which China is not the only protagonist. These are multiple chains of actors who, step by step, are involved in these exchanges and material transformations around the world. These people have built their individual and collective futures on waste deposits that continue to grow: garbage mines that they hope to turn into gold.

How to think of the socio-economic, political and ecological issues associated with these material circulations? Can waste be considered as indicators of development or revealers of inequalities? How to understand and tell the stories of people involved in these interwoven channels: between globalized archetypes and unique destinies? What to do with circulating images, media relays and imaginary associated with these waste practices? What images and which speech to produce and for what purposes?

The debates will be led by:

  • Mikaëla Le Meur, anthropologist, completing doctoral research at the Free University of Brussels on the issue of plastic waste and recycling in Vietnam and co-administrator of the Tamis, and
  • Jérémie Cavé, independent consultant-researcher in urban ecology, teacher at Sciences Po Toulouse and author of the book La Ruée vers l’Ordure.

The workshop is hosted at the Docks by the photographic exhibition “The Image of the Rebirth. Materials, corp(u)s and practices around waste “, presented on the marketplace from 3 to 17 July 2018 by the Urban Societies and Waste network and the French Development Agency.

Download the programme (in French)

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