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The treadmill of solid waste management : a tale of two eastern Washington cities
Eliana Tamar Maas Schwartz
May 10, 2016
Department or Program
Sociology - Environmental Studies
Today’s society generates massive quantities of solid waste. The programs that city, county, and state governments adopt to manage this waste reflect broader priorities. Recycling, specifically, has garnered support as an "environmentally friendly" solid waste management program. Are cities that recycle acting upon environmental concern or are there other factors involved? In this research, I investigate the environmental, economic, political, and social factors that lead municipal governments to implement and modify curbside recycling programs in Ellensburg and Walla Walla, Washington. I utilize qualitative data collected through interviews with local waste management officials and content analysis of Solid Waste Management Plans. In both cities, I find that political mandates led to the implementation of curbside recycling but economic priorities dominated all future decision-making processes. These results are evidence of the pervasiveness of capitalist values in society. Ultimately, I argue that solid waste management is driven by a capitalist agenda that reflects the prioritization of economic profit over environmental sustainability.