The city I live in stopped recycling two weeks ago for reasons never explained on its website or in any mailing. I’m a little shamefaced that I feel a sense of loss over a practice I have long known to be a neocolonial fiction. While I dutifully recycle my phone, computer, and plastics, the US recycling industry dumps American trash into landfills across the Global South. Even as I get to feel good about doing my bit for the climate, recycling exposes vulnerable workers to highly toxic materials as they sort through them for valuable bits. Knowing all this and facing dramatic changes to my work and personal lives, why do I feel so bad every time I throw a can away or put a cardboard box into the garbage? I think it is because sorting papers, washing bottles and cans, and putting the recycling outside has for so long been a daily ritual. Even more than the gloves and masks I wear to go shopping, and the eyestrain resulting from long days zoom teaching, it is this embodied practice that tells me how much has changed.
[About the image: Caption: E-Waste in China. Photograph by Kai Löffelbein]