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Rethinking governance and value in commodity chains through global recycling networks
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Dr Alexandra Hughes
Crang M, Hughes A, Gregson N, Norris L, Ahamed F
Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
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The dominant political-economic approaches to global trade flows known as global value chains and global production networks offer powerful insights into the coordination and location of globally stretched supply chains, in particular from global South to North. By way of both conceptual and empirical challenge, this paper highlights the growing reverse flows of end-of-life goods from the global North towards the global South. This involves the disassembly, destruction and re-fabrication of spent goods. Global destruction networks take things of rubbish value and turn them back into resources in other places and production networks. They operate not only through adding value, but also by connecting different regimes of value. The paper thus does not set out a new framework but asks what challeneges used goods create for global commodity chain analysis and what insights those approaches bring to looking at ‘waste’ flows. The examples of used or second hand clothing and end-of-life ships are mobilised both to illustrate the dynamics of global destruction networks and to challenge prevailing commodity chain approaches in three key areas – value chain directionality, value and materiality, and inter-firm governance. We argue that waste flows engender highly complex and brokered forms of governance that contrast markedly with the modes of co-ordination, dominated by ‘big capital’, typical of global production networks for consumer goods.
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