Author(s): Finn Arne Jørgensen
An overview of recycling as an activity and a process, following different materials through the waste stream.
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 J rgensen answers (drumroll, please): 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. J rgensen offers an accessible and engaging overview of recycling as an activity and as a process at the intersection of the material and the ideological.
J rgensen follows a series of materials as they move back and forth between producer and consumer, continually transforming in form and value, in a never-ceasing journey toward becoming waste. 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; the many types of plastic and the difficulties of informed consumer choice; 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?" J rgensen argues that recycling is necessary--as both symbolic action and physical activity that has a tangible effect on the real world.