The interface between political ecology and actor-network theories: exploring the reality of waste
Human-environment relationship is a prominent discourse in many academic disciplines. Initial studies in social sciences viewed nature being independent of society but gradually researchers proved that both are related and dependent upon each other. Current studies confirm the association between humans and the environment which changes with time and space. Waste is part of the human environment and is ubiquitous. Climate change, environmental pollution, and vulnerabilities associated with it have been major concerns for policymakers, activists, and academicians across the globe over the past couple of decades. The report of International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2006 delineated waste management as an important part of urban infrastructure having close relation to issues of urban lifestyle, resource consumption pattern, income level, jobs, socio-economic and cultural factors. According to World Bank estimation in 2018, waste generation will increase from 2.01 billion tones in 2016 to 3.40 billion tones in 2050. However, despite its significance in the academic world, the waste remains under-theorized. The meaning and value of waste vary from person to person and also from culture to culture. Rapid urbanization and globalization have led to the social, economic and political crisis with an increased amount of waste. The multidimensional nature of waste creates the need for interpreting it in a distinct way. With the help of theoretical pluralism, this paper aims at explaining the concept of waste through the theoretical lens of political ecology and actor-network theory. The political ecology perspective aims at explaining the environmental issues by analyzing the political-economical causes and provides the alternative for solving the issue. The actor-network theory explains the environmental issues by studying the association among actors at various scales with a special focus on the power interest of the actors as the cause of such association. These two approaches can be integrated based on the pragmatic approach and can help in understanding the complex reality of waste. The paper views that societal problems like waste can be studied with the use of both these theories with a firm hold on the context as they tend to transcend the dualism between nature and society.