Incineration, Urbanization, and Municipal Solid Waste in the World-System




Incineration, Cities, Urbanization, Waste, Bottom Ash


Incineration, or waste-to-energy, is a widespread means of greenwashing municipal solid waste collection worldwide. This paper looks at incineration and the trade of bottom ash to discuss how urbanization in one country pressures urban expansion elsewhere in the modern world-system. Incineration is a coping mechanism for excess waste produced by cities under capitalism. It generates energy, reduces the volume of waste, and creates ash that can be used in cement production. However, it is far from sustainable, as it facilitates expansion-oriented growth. Using UN Comtrade data, we find that incineration is a material and metabolic process that promotes global urbanization in the following ways: 1.) Corporations producing and selling incineration are part of a transnational growth machine that fuels the treadmill of production. 2.) North-North, North-South, and South-South relationships encourage incineration as a means of ecological modernization. 3.) These relationships have both hierarchical and polycentric dimensions—allowing us to create a typology for understanding such processes within the modern world-system.


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How to Cite

Fu, A. S., & Balaban, U. (2024). Incineration, Urbanization, and Municipal Solid Waste in the World-System. Journal of World-Systems Research, 30(1), 276–301.