Regulation, Recycling and the Rise of Informality: Deposit Beverage Container Collection on the Halifax Peninsula
Atchison, David J
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Why do some people in Halifax, Nova Scotia work collecting recyclables rather than in other—more formal—means of employment? Some scholars argue that informal economic activity is the product of a shift towards flexible work regimes and reductions to the social welfare system (the informalization thesis) and/or that increasingly marginalized people are forced into informal economic activities by economic necessity (the marginalization thesis). Drawing on a close analysis of provincial and municipal recycling policies and ethnographic fieldwork with informal recyclers, I argue that the informalization and marginalization theses are based on overly deterministic models of informal employment. Demand for informal recycling in Halifax is supported by a complex raft of environmental legislation designed to increase the rate of recycling. People willingly choose informal recycling as an alternative to formal employment for various reasons, but above all because it offers a tax-free, honest living, autonomy and a decent income.