Economies of recycling, 'consumption work' and divisions of labour in Sweden and England

Wheeler, Kathryn and Glucksmann, Miriam (2013). Economies of recycling, 'consumption work' and divisions of labour in Sweden and England. Sociological Research Online, 18(1), article no. 9.



The recycling of domestic waste has become increasingly significant over recent years with governments across the world pledging increases in their recycling rates. But success in reaching targets relies on the input and effort of the household and consumer. This article argues that the work consumers regularly perform in sorting their recyclable waste into different fractions and, in some cases, transporting this to communal sites, plays an integral role in the overall division of labour within waste management processes. We develop the concept of 'consumption work' drawing on comparative research in Sweden and England to show how the consumer is both at the end and starting point of a circular global economy of materials re-use. The work that consumers do has not been systematically explored as a distinctive form of labour, and we argue that treating it seriously requires revision of the conventional approach to the division of labour

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