Until the Chinese government’s new trade policy on waste importation this year, the environmental and practical impact of the global waste trade has been largely absent from US scientific and theoretical studies on waste. These new policies, however, are predicted to have a catastrophic impact on the American scrap recycling industry and have therefore ignited a conversation. This talk uses the lens of the critically acclaimed yet domestically banned documentary Plastic China (2016) by Jiuliang Wang to investigate both industrial statistics and out-of-sight practices of plastic scrap recycling. It is only when the “foreign” part of the story is told that we can rethink “recycling,” which is itself a controversial packaging concept of consumer culture. The global fluidity of waste engages and enriches theories about plasticity, plastic-organism contact, environmental justice, political economy, and documentary intervention, as well as intimately connects to our everyday lives.
Inez Xingyue Zhou (Ph.D., Comparative Literature, UCSB) is a Recent-PhD Fellow at the IHC who specializes in modern and contemporary poetics and waste aesthetics.