The visit began with a guest lecture with the topic of circular economy and resource extraction and reuse.
– Circular economy has become an attractive system for companies and organizations, as it is viewed as a win-win situation. It gives them the possibility to continue exploiting natural resources and guilt-free new production, because their focus on circular economy has landed on what happens after the product has been used and the recycling of materials, which is often done somewhere else at a low cost, Manisha Anantharaman says.
She claims that the circular economy is quickly becoming a new arena for inequality between countries. She warns that if the circular economy is pursued as a strategy of economic competitiveness and green growth, a growing circularity divide could emerge between developed and developing nations, as the former have structural advantages in the global economy. A growing circularity divide will be especially harmful for the millions of informal waste workers in low income countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Despite performing a crucial part in circular material recycling, the contributions, knowledge and work of informal workers is not readily acknowledged in circular economy discourse.
– Informal waste workers provide vital environmental and economic services, but under difficult conditions. Municipal codes and rules often criminalize their work, and a push towards privatization is dispossessing them of access to waste. Even when efforts are made to include informal workers into formalized recycling systems, caste-based hierarchies and oppressive relationships keep waste workers salaries low. To realize the potential of the circular economy to deliver tangible improvements in the lives of informal waste workers, alongside environmental protection, we must move beyond inclusion and growthism to instead focus on how the circular economy can function as a space for socio-ecological reparation, Manisha Anantharaman says.
The event was co-organized together with SASNET.
Read more about Manisha and her research here.