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Thinking like Apple's recycling robots: towards the activation of responsibility in a postenvironmentalist world

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/11/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Ephemera : Theory and Politics in Organization
Issue number2
Volume20
Number of pages32
Pages (from-to)163-194
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date29/11/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This article turns to valuation studies to enrich the critical capacities of postenvironmentalism with a more situated approach. Debates in postenvironmentalism suggest moving away from a romanticized notion of nature and instead shining the spotlight on the responsibility humans have toward the built environment, which includes technologies. We use Liam and Daisy, two recycling robots of Apple Inc., as intermediaries to discuss the multiplicities of value-production in the recycling economies of electronic waste. The company introduced these robots as innovations to revolutionize the recycling industries; yet, drawing on our ethnographic research in the UK, Germany, India and Ghana we emphasize that Apple’s approach to research is limited. The notion of dis/assembling value enables us to activate the production of responsibility as a value in empirical contexts, with a focus on (1) decisions on material breakdown that are hidden in the black box of Apple’s algorithms, (2) the vulnerability and fragility of electronic waste work, and (3) the rising impact of shredding technologies in the global recycling economies of e-waste.