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Avail­able in Eng­lish on until Octo­ber 2022, a thir­ty-minute reportage on Istanbul’s Rub­bish collectors.

Filmed in 2021, this reportage draws atten­tion not only to the labor of the col­lec­tors, their pre­car­i­ous­ness and the dis­crim­i­na­tions to which they are sub­ject­ed, but also shows how the man­na of recy­cling attracts lust and greed so that, under the guise of ‘reg­u­la­tions’, the Turk­ish State attempts to grab a wild pub­lic ser­vice it was not up to orga­niz­ing on its own, in order to take advan­tage of future prof­its with which to grease the wheels of corruption.

Indeed, the bill “zero rub­bish” for 2023, ini­ti­at­ed  in grandiose style in 2017 and treat­ed as the Pres­i­dent of the Republic’s wife, Emine Erdoğan’s pri­vate hunt­ing ground which she pop­u­lar­ized in front of the UN in 2021, main­ly aims at con­cen­trat­ing and secur­ing healthy returns on recy­cling added val­ue on rub­bish in Turkey.

As every­one knows, the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my in the hands of cap­i­tal­ist glob­al­iza­tion is more about upgrad­ing the finan­cial  val­ue of rub­bish cir­cu­lat­ing as a mer­chan­dise in a great world-wide move­ment and, final­ly, cre­at­ing val­ue lead­ing to unequal devel­op­ments in the glob­al market.

The com­mer­cial val­ue of rub­bish is the main argu­ment put for­ward, with prof­it accru­ing at every lev­el of its jour­ney across the world, for whole­salers, inter­me­di­aries, trans­porta­tion firms, much more than the envi­ron­men­tal inter­est of recy­cling, although this is the argu­ment invoked as a green flag.

An eye on world sta­tis­tics shows that the five coun­tries sur­pass­ing or bare­ly reach­ing the 50% mark on recy­cling are Ger­many, Aus­tria, South Korea, Wales and Switzer­land. Among those coun­tries, up until some very recent deci­sions, Ger­many was also among the big “exporters”. With all this con­tribut­ing to the fig­ures of “growth”.

But this arti­cle is not an inves­ti­ga­tion on the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my. There would be so much to say about the use of vir­tu­ous con­cepts daubed in green paint by cap­i­tal­ism, the bet­ter to be divert­ed from their social usefulness.

A recent episode in Turkey sound­ed the alert, when the coun­try   start­ed receiv­ing more rub­bish than it pro­duced while Chi­na in par­tic­u­lar was clos­ing its bor­ders to world rub­bish. Tons of rub­bish land­ed in agri­cul­tur­al or pop­u­lat­ed zones, thrown there or burnt out­doors for lack of suf­fi­cient recy­cling infra­struc­tures, and for lack of sig­nif­i­cant selec­tive sort­ing in the export­ing countries.

The “zero rub­bish” in 2021 turned into a huge back-up in Turk­ish har­bors also, in full pan­dem­ic, which did not help matters.

So now Turkey is shift­ing toward its “local pro­duc­tion”. And the State has decid­ed to con­cen­trate on this sec­tor. This is not about cre­at­ing a vast pub­lic ser­vice for  treat­ing rub­bish and refuse, serv­ing the envi­ron­ment, pop­u­la­tions and the plan­et, but a scram­ble in order to seize the prof­itable  part of recy­cling and con­cen­trat­ing the val­ue chain cur­rent­ly trick­ling into the infor­mal economy.

Of course, no one can wish for the con­tin­u­a­tion of this “measly job” as rub­bish col­lec­tor. But destroy­ing through repres­sion this macro econ­o­my allow­ing for the sub­sis­tence of des­ti­tute work­ers, when the ser­vice they are pro­vid­ing to the pub­lic and the envi­ron­ment will not be replaced for a long time, is yet anoth­er demon­stra­tion of how sav­age cap­i­tal­ism and fascis­tic author­i­tar­i­an­ism are allies.

This reportage focus­es on a form of mis­ery in Turkey cohab­i­tat­ing with inso­lent wealth, with its cohort of con­tempt and dis­crim­i­na­tions, on a cul­tur­al back­ground where, luck­i­ly, sol­i­dar­i­ty is still present.

This doc­u­men­tary will remain avail­able on Eng­lish until Octo­ber 2022

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Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.