The messy geographies of waste in a Sun Belt city

Authors: Kevin Martyn*, University of South Florida
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Waste Incineration, Actor-Networks, Anthropocene
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8223, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the Anthropocene, the extent to which the past will not be analogous to the future is increasingly concerning (Braun 2015). As Humankind experiences the approach of an unpredictable, inhospitable, and potentially catastrophic future; emergent socio-natural systems of coping are also likely to be dissimilar. Humankind’s relationship with waste has long been characterized by a careless externalization, but recent events in the Anthropocene suggest the necessity of a reorientation in that disposition. Still, urgent calls to imagine the ‘waste free’ city, the ‘waste preventive’ city, and ‘smart’ or ‘sustainable’ cities often repeat the mistakes of past modernist dreams of purification. Waste is relationally co-produced through diverse socio-natural arrangements, but its existence is a constant. From the ‘dust haulers’ of Dickensian London to the solar trash compactors that line many city streets today, in one form or another waste has always been a part of life. A close look at one of those socio-natural systems, that of an incineration-based “waste regime” (Gille 2010), provides an evocative demonstration of uneasiness in the contemporary social process of becoming. This talk surveys the discursive strategies of actors engaged in ongoing efforts to enroll others in their preferred constructions of meaning in the Actor-Networks of waste in Tampa. To that end, this discussion highlights several recent and prominent discursive manipulations, including shifting definitions of what is recyclable; how recycling is to be accomplished; and what counts as renewable energy.

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