Introducing 'care' into circular economies: implications on pro-posal, use and dis-posal
(University of Exeter)
Paper short abstract:
This paper addresses forms of 'care' that respect particularities of co-elaborated molecules. Caring opens up alternative ways of re-use and association with the 'disposable' and seeks to 'potentialize' molecular bonds rather than destroy them.
Paper long abstract:
The proposed paper is a speculative account of the care-ful re-scription of a circular economy. We proceed through a re-examination of PET molecules and the complex assemblages these molecules co-produce and co-animate. A care-ful study of 'informed materials' (Barry 2005) reveal 'neglected' works of maintenance within atomic and molecular configurations, ones that inspire and hold engineered assemblages together. These assemblages may incorporate stable elementary tendencies from deep-time anteriority such as inter-atomic and inter-molecular affinities of particular kinds, behaviour of particular entities across temperature-pressure ranges and so on. These essentially sustain characterization, prediction and modelling within the 'operational realism' Barry describes. Care-ing as recognising and acting respectfully with such entities not only unravels petrochemical production as an optimised art of the possible and the technologically-affordable – as built around stable configurations from the past, it may also inspire more meaningful forms of re-use and re/up/down-cycling. In particular, I draw on field-notes from a 3-year long ethnographic study in India where I traced 'surprising' re-attachments and mundane innovations with PET plastic as forms of social and environmental care-ing across domains as diverse as parliaments, sewage canals, lakes, roads, classrooms, people's homes, windows and toilets. Frugal innovation as local circulation can be understood as sporadic socio-economic and ecological eddies that run in parallel to governed circulations such as industrial recycling. By excavating these 'hidden labours', from molecular affinities to unrecognised grassroot innovation, we analyse versions of care-ing in which subjects-to-be are 'potentialized' – from PET-bottle-rafts to volume-enhancer for smart-phone speakers, the list goes on.
Encounters with and for circular economy initiatives