Plastic Solidarity

Patrick O’Hare

Department of Social Anthropology, School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies

Transforming Plastic into Solidarity: Ethical Vertical Integration and Binational Recycling is a 4+3 year UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship (FLF) is led by Dr Patrick O’Hare. It investigates the confluence of circular and social economies in Uruguay and Argentina and focuses on the recycled plastics trade and new legal frameworks that enables cooperatives to take leading roles in the recovery, recycling, and development of new products from post-consumer and post-industrial plastics. Specifically, Patrick is conducting fieldwork with a recycling chain that connects waste-picker collectives and recycled plastic pellet and board cooperatives. More broadly, the research project explores theories of innovation and circular economy from below, and the capacity of theorisations of the circular economy to incorporate elements of equity and social justice.

Felled tree trunks and baled nappies sit alongside each other in Montevideo’s Felipe Cardoso landfill. The former arrive at the dump as part of ‘garden waste’, while the latter constitute industrial scrap from the paper industry that is difficult to recycle due to its mix of plastic and cellulose. One of the most contentious environmental issues in Uruguay in recent years has been the expansion of industrial forestry to provide raw material (pulp) for the paper industry.

Photographer: Patrick O’Hare