‘Value Formation in E-waste Recycling’ presentation at Vox Populi Visegradensis: The Anthropology of East-Central Europe conference
This paper addresses the spatial encounter of electrical and electronic waste and people with disabilities in e-waste processing companies. Roughly the third of all companies that treat e-waste in the Czech Republic are sheltered workshops that employ people with disabilities. A “second chance” is given to waste by recycling and to people by employing them. It assumes they both need a chance to prove their worth. I ask how values are shaped in the context of recycling and what role the connection of e-waste and people with disabilities plays in this process. I use e-waste and its recycling linked with value transformation and material changes as a vehicle of understanding the political and ethical aspects of the state welfare system and its embeddedness in the economy. Based on my ethnographic fieldwork, I want to show that the encounter of e-waste and people with disabilities is not coincidental. It juxtaposes the financial and labour value with the aspects of social justice and environmental responsibility.