Inverse Infrastructures
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Inverse Infrastructures

Disrupting Networks from Below

Edited by Tineke M. Egyedi and Donna C. Mehos

The notion of inverse infrastructures – that is, bottom-up, user-driven, self-organizing networks – gives us a fresh perspective on the omnipresent infrastructure systems that support our economy and structure our way of living. This fascinating book considers the emergence of inverse infrastructures as a new phenomenon that will have a vast impact on consumers, industry and policy. Using a wide range of theories, from institutional economics to complex adaptive systems, it explores the mechanisms and incentives for the rise of these alternatives to large-scale infrastructures and points to their potential disruptive effect on conventional markets and governance models.
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Chapter 5: Citizen-Driven Collection of Waste Paper (1945–2010): A Government-Sustained Inverse Infrastructure

Frida de Jong and Karel Mulder


5. Citizen-Driven Collection of Waste Paper (1945-2010): A Government-Sustained Inverse Infrastructure Frida de Jong and Karel Mulder INTRODUCTION The problem of waste1 is severe. To give an idea of the scale of the problem, in 2006 the average European citizen produced 581 kg of domestic waste (EEA 2008). The collection, handling and disposal of waste are usually seen as a government responsibility. Citizens hold their municipalities and governments responsible for the inconvenience of litter and its possible threat to public hygiene, as illustrated by the recurrent waste scandals about garbage piling up in the streets of Naples (e.g. during several weeks in late 2009). Although waste disposal services are often privatized, they are viewed as a universal public service to which all citizens should have equal access. In this respect waste disposal is not different from other, traditional large-scale infrastructures like drinking water, railways and energy. While in the past such infrastructures were handled by government (e.g. Loorbach 2007, pp. 171178), in European countries today they are most commonly operated under government concession by private companies or as public-private partnerships (PPP). In the terminology of Chapter 1, they are ‘designed’ in the sense of being centrally planned, driven and governed by select partners to the PPP and, correspondingly, funded and controlled from the top down. This centralized mode of waste handling and disposal has dominated in most European cities and municipalities for several decades, and not without reason. Given the liberalized European market and the high-tech facilities for waste transport...

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