Accepted paper:

Used clothes, new lives: the techno-logistics politics of corporate recycling


Ka-ming Wu (Chinese University of Hong Kong )

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the cultural politics of a used clothes recycling program led by the biggest online retailer in China that infuses the language of techno-logistics, infrastructural competence, and environmental sustainability.

Paper long abstract:

Last year,, also known as Jingdong, one of the largest online retailers in the world by transaction volume and revenue, has announced a grand recycling program of "Used Clothes New Lives." Jingdong claims that the program aims not only to collect used clothes to reduce the production of waste and to recycle raw materials, it promotes the novel online technology of allowing donors to track where their used clothes go and how they reach the new recipients. Supported also by Tencent and WWF China, the program has been launched in fourteen Chinese cities and has collected over 330 000 pieces of used clothes. JIngdong prides the success of the program by its infrastructural and logistical capacities: its ability to mobilize over 20000 delivery men, who show up at customers' doors once they press the button of "I want to donate"; its facilities of delivery trucks to send the cleaned used clothes to charity organizations or schools in remote rural areas; and its online charity platform which allows donors to check the entire logistic flows and process. The paper asks the following questions. How is the concept of circular economy promoted in this specific program in major cities in China? How does it appeal to urban middle class citizens? How are the concepts of logistics, infrastructures, smart delivery and tracking systems talked about and perceived? What is the cultural politics of a circular economic program that infuses the language of techno-logistics, infrastructural competence, and environmental sustainability?

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