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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Gregson, N. & Crang, M.A. From Waste to Resource: The Trade in Wastes and Global Recycling Economies. Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 2015;40:151-176.

Author(s) from Durham


We outline the frameworks that shape and hold apart waste debates in and about Global North and South and that hinder analysis of flows between them. Typically waste is addressed as municipal waste, resulting in a focus on domestic consumption and urban governance, and a resulting emphasis on cities and the national scale. The prevailing ways of addressing the increasingly global flows of wastes between North and South are those of global environmental justice and are underpinned by the geographical imagination encoded in the Basel Convention. New research on the trades in used goods and recycling in developing countries challenges these accounts. It shows that arguments about dumping on the South need revision. ‘Wastes’ are secondary resources for developing countries, ‘harvesting’ them is a significant economic activity, and consequent resource recovery is a key part of the global economy. Four areas of further research are identified: (1) changing patterns of global ‘harvesting’; (2) attempts to re-scale resource recovery and the challenges faced; (3) the geopolitics of resource recovery; (4) changes in resource recovery in developing countries.

Department of Geography