Political Ecologies of Electronic Waste by Graham Pickren
The ultimate aim of many works on e-waste recycling has been to try and find the answer to the question whether recycling matters at all even though it is mandated. With the techniques so seemingly effective and politics nominally having recycling issues under strict control, Graham Pickren asserts that recycling electronic waste does not really make much difference.
His article is aimed at illustrating how politically infused disruptions in the market disable the efforts to recycle. Concisely and yet convincingly rolling out his arguments, the author concedes that recycling electronic waste, when governed, is substituted by sheer image of recycling.
What we actually have, the author states, is that waste is being politicized and marketed (Pickren 31-32). He asserts that, just as the concepts and strategies of sustainable and ethical consumption simplify the and fetishize the concepts related to the products, the concept of recycling the e-waste both educates and misleads the public (Pickren 34).
This is done, for instance, through documentaries that demonstrate how hazardous the waste is, if exported and not recycled, and at the same time opts for job creation. The real motif behind it, Pickren supposes, is that the electronics manufacturers do not want out-of-life products to be exported, renewed, and used again. This is also the reason such companies reduce the products’ service life and do not produce parts for their maintenance (Pickren 39).
Overall, the future of e-waste recycling is rather dreary, as per Pickren. Although he does not openly state that reusing electronic waste is meaningless, he presses the bureaucratic nature of any reforming in the sphere, that would only stagnate the whole process instead of furthering it. Recyclers do not concern themselves what triggers pollution, he states, but only try to curb the existing problems that spring up in abundance.
The article is relatively recent, which is why there is very little critique or appraisal available in open access. However, upon reading this study, I might be able to predict the wave of criticism for lambasting the existing programs’ inefficiency that Pickren is most likely to receive.
At first sight, this article might seem an eye-opener; on second thoughts, the author and his assertions might look somewhat paranoid.
But then again, upon reading the well-researched and well-written material that the author provides, one understands that, subconsciously, one has been aware of the e-waste sustainability programs’ ambiguity from the very beginning.
Indeed, it does not require much analytical thinking to trace a connection between the reduced lifespan of common electronic products and the urge to throw away and/or recycle. What the author smartly dubs “the grey areas” is mainly oriented on encouraging consumerism and boosting revenues (Pickren 42).
Overall, with the amount of electronic goods we buy and trash, with the consumerist machine hardly ever stoppable, it is only natural that recycling e-waste as we know it is not an adequate way of dealing with the problem.
The author’s main point is hard to disagree with. Indeed, it would be a big mistake to think that waste can be dealt with by throwing it away and letting mandated programs take care of it. Rather, the current sustainability measures are a piece of surgical gauze to patch up the problem where it is most visible.
Pickren, Graham. “Political ecologies of electronic waste: uncertainty and legitimacy in the governance of e-waste geographies.” Environment and Planning A 46 (2014): 26-45. Print.
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