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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2022

11 Recycling Europe’s Domestic Wastes: The Hope of “Greening” Mass Consumption through Recycling

From the book Greening Europe

  • Heike Weber


In the 1970s and 1980s, waste recycling was politically promoted as a strategy to lower the environmental impact of postconsumer waste. In diverse Western European cities, local recycling projects emerged as a result of civic and ecological activism. What began as an eco-movement turned into the main pillar of municipal waste management, as stakeholders from industry and politics, and environmental activists agreed that recycling was the best way to handle rising amounts of waste. Moreover, consumers began to carve out an unexpected form of a “consumer-recycler citizenship”: Sorting, storing, and transporting one’s waste for recycling (or not) became a means to express one’s individual environmental awareness as a consumer. A closer examination of glass recycling demonstrates that recycling was a mixed blessing. The 1970s bottle banks were driven by the idea of defying the throwaway culture as expressed by disposable glass bottle, but in the end, it represented a further shift away from reusing (the traditional returnable bottle) towards disposal and scrapping.

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