Nice save! The moral economies of recycling in Sweden and England

Wheeler, Kathryn (2014). Nice save! The moral economies of recycling in Sweden and England. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 32(4) pp. 704–720.




My aim in this paper is to develop the concept of moral economy by exploring how moral principles intertwine and interact with forms of economic organisation. Through applying a holistic moral economy framework (Bolton and Laaser, 2013), informed by the writings of Polanyi (1944, 1957), Thompson (1993) and Sayer (2000, 2005, 2011), this paper explores institutional variations in the moral economies of recycling, at the same time as paying attention to those lay normativities that shape consumer’s everyday interactions with their waste. The starting point for this paper comes from the observation that moral messages used to promote recycling differ between Sweden and England. In Sweden, the protection and stewardship of the natural environment are key tropes whereas in England recycling is variously promoted as an action that saves the environment and public money. I show that the content of these moral messages is closely related to the system of recycling provision within a country, together shaping nationally distinct moral economies of recycling.

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