This dissertation examines how sections of the urban waste precariat, positioned in the City of Tshwane, responded to the formalisation and privatisation of the waste management system by the city's public authorities. Focusing on two landfill sites, it consists of an ethnographic description and analysis of the nexus between waste makers, waste governors and the waste precariat, including waste-pickers. Drawing on multiple theoretical perspectives, the ethnography brings to light aspects and dynamics of the waste management system which are invisible to the waste governors. These include a typical instance of "accumulation by dispossession" (Harvey 2004, Samson 2012), which involved the closure of three municipal landfill sites and the relocation of a section of the city's waste precariat to other landfill sites, as the state sought to capture the value of the waste generated by the waste makers in the city. Moreover, the closure of one landfill site located in the midst of a wealthy suburb also shows how this process of dispossession is constructed on older distinctions of race and class (Malan 1996, Ballard 2004). As those sections of the waste precariat move to another landfill they are confronted with new dynamics which include access to soft waste being controlled by an established waste-picker committee and city-supported cooperatives that have formed an alliance with the waste governors. As a result, the 'newcomers' are pushed into fringe recycling. This thesis contributes to the debate around the formalisation of waste picking in demonstrating how the process of formalisation, often pushed for and initiated by third sector organisations (Alexander 2009), engenders the exclusion of fringe recycling practices. As such this thesis contributes to a gap in the literature on fringe recycling, in the process also working towards portraying waste-pickers as a differentiated group. In theorising fringe recycling as part of the broader response of the waste precariat to formalisation and privatisation, this thesis deploys the concept of bricolage (Levi-Strauss 1966) in order to make sense of the creative and autonomous actions implied in improvisation. This emphasis on improvisation and creativity pushes the thesis into a consideration of 'things' (Ingold 2010) and the processes of formation, flows and the transformation of materials. Tracing the complex lines of flow and entanglement that exists between people and things in the context of landfill sites gives credence to the idea of a thing as a "gathering together of the threads of life" (Ingold 2010:2-3) and challenges our established understanding of agency and indeed the effort by Appadurai (1986) to theorise value through tracing 'the social life of things'.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2017.