In recent years, growing emphasis on green economies and green capitalism have brought renewed attention to the waste practices of all places of work, including ones that are not directly linked to neither production nor waste management, such as schools, offices, and stores, as well as households, which European countries, in particular, are increasingly depicting as key sites of intervention for recycling economies. This trend represents a departure from historical waste management policies, which tend to view waste and waste work as separate from main economic and household activities, but is consistent with market economies' trend of outsourcing dirty, demeaning, and dangerous labor to precarious and informal workforces, while at the same time granting them only limited legal access to waste materials and trash collection sites. The new forms of waste labor emerging from green capitalism's emphasis on private and small-scale recycling behaviors are largely invisible and unpaid; however, unlike more documented forms of global environmental racism denouncing the outsourcing of toxic materials to the Global South, they take place in industrialized countries where they are pushed upon disenfranchised minorities, such as informal workers, racialized ethnic minorities, and low-income women. In this article we examine women's participation in waste work through the lenses of waste, (in)visibility, and intersectionality. We draw on ethnographic and archival data collected in the city of Naples, Italy, an area with a prolonged history of toxic waste contamination and waste mismanagement which in recent years have drawn renewed scrutiny to public waste management as well as to everyday waste practices performed in households and workplaces, predominantly by women of different race and citizenship backgrounds. Through these experiences, we highlight how the increasing visibility of waste generated by green capitalism, coupled with the stigmatization and criminalization of informal waste collection and recycling, is generating new forms of social inequalities and exclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)114-129
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Labor and Working-Class History
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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