Date: November 2019
Duration: 3 hours 34 minutes
Is there a point to recycling? Is recycling even good for the environment? In this volume in the MIT Press Essential Knowledge series, Finn Arne Jørgensen answers: it depends. From a technical point of view, recycling is a series of processes-collecting, sorting, processing, manufacturing. Recycling also has a cultural component; at its core, recycling is about transformation and value, turning material waste into something useful-plastic bags into patio furniture, plastic bottles into T-shirts. Jørgensen offers an accessible and engaging overview of recycling as an activity and as a process at the intersection of the material and the ideological.
Jørgensen follows a series of materials as they move back and forth between producer and consumer. He considers organic waste and cultural contamination; the history of recyclable writing surfaces from papyrus to newsprint; discarded clothing as it moves from the the Global North to the Global South; the shifting fate of glass bottles; the efficiency of aluminum recycling; e-waste and technological obsolescence; and industrial waste. Finally, re-asking the question posed by John Tierney in an infamous 1996 New York Times article, 'is recycling garbage?' Jørgensen argues that recycling is necessary-as both symbolic action and physical activity that has a tangible effect on the real world.