Abstract Over the past 40 years, the scale of environmental problems has increased to monumental proportions, while environmental politics has shrunk to the micro level. Injunctions for each individual to “do their part” by modifying their lifestyle and consumption habits multiplied, while collective action and policies targeting environmental degradation at the point of production diminished. This “individualization” of environmental politics has been described and critiqued, but no convincing explanation for it presented. In this article, I explore its origins through an historical case study of the paradigmatic example of individualized environmentalism: recycling. I wield original empirical material to both challenge and sharpen prevailing accounts of recycling’s institutionalization and to theorize the broader trend of individualization. Drawing on Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony, I advance the thesis that the individualization of environmental politics is due to their skillful management by key corporate interests. In order to deter costly legislation, producers have created and implemented solutions that appeal to environmentalists’ concerns, yet in a way that defines individual consumers, not producers, as the source of environmental degradation. The lack of a mass environmental movement enabled producers to organize these solutions on the fertile grounds of civil society. recycling; hegemony, environmental politics, individualization, environmentalism The history of environmental politics in the United States presents a puzzle. The edifice of federal environmental regulation—constructed largely between 1968 and 1973—exemplifies regulatory architecture in the modernist style. Imposing and functional, it leverages state power to limit pollution at its source, and it has proven effective at reducing some of the most egregious impacts of industrial development (Foster 1999; Schnaiberg 1980). Despite this early success, ambitions for controlling socio-environmental relations via “top-down” measures have since faltered, and major environmental dysfunctions remain unregulated (Gottlieb 2005).1 Scholars have explained this lack of regulatory fortitude in several ways. First, and most prominently, the lack of a coherent, national environmental movement reduced pressure on legislators for passage of such regulation (e.g., Brulle 2000; Dowie 1995; Gottlieb 2005; Tokar 1997). This absence is commonly attributed to national environmental NGOs’ disinterest in grassroots organizing.2 Instead, these NGOs have assumed a role in Washington as watchdogs of the existing regulatory system, and pursued a strategy of insider bargaining with corporate stakeholders for the passage of new legislation (Gottlieb 2005; Skocpol 2013; Tokar 1997). Theda Skocpol (2013) singled out this strategy as a crucial mistake in her analysis of the historic failure to pass climate change legislation in 2009. Resource dependence theory is one potential explanation for this phenomenon: environmental NGOs are increasingly controlled by foundations that prefer funding “inside-the-beltway” strategies (Brulle and Jenkins 2005). A second class of explanation focuses on a parallel trend, the proliferation of discourses and practices focused on consumption rather than production and the activities of individuals rather than institutions. To wit, scrutinizing industrial emissions gave way to enjoining individuals to measure and reduce their “carbon footprints;” in place of restricting chemical inputs to agriculture, we gained the option to buy organic and local; rather than reduce postconsumer waste at its source, that waste was commodified, and we were volunteered to sort it. 3 There is ample critique of the ironies, inequities, and inadequacies of these measures (Johnston 2008; Maniates 2001; Rogers 2010; Szasz 2007). However, there is no comprehensive sociological explanation of this puzzling development. The central question this research asks is: Why did this come about? What is the genealogy of “individualized” environmental politics, characterized by discourses of shared responsibility for environmental ills, and corresponding injunctions for each to “do their part” by changing their behavior? This research also explores the relationship between individualized and collective environmental politics. Critics have hypothesized that the former strategies undermine the potential for collective politics (e.g., Maniates 2001).4 This may be the case—it is a difficult hypothesis to test—but it also bears consideration whether the growth of individualized, commercialized environmental politics is due to the absence of collective mobilization. We lack a theory of environmental politics that systematically accounts for these phenomena. I argue that a Gramscian perspective provides such a synthesis. To state my thesis in its broadest terms, by ceding the strategically pivotal ground of civil society, potential agents of the environmental movement were open to persuasion by the forces environmental politics were arrayed against, namely those of commercial industrial development. Corporate actors and their representatives seized this opportunity to frame socio-environmental problems from their own perspective and promote solutions of their own design: in this case, solutions that focus on individualized actions, as opposed to state regulation. The lack of organization of civil society by national environmental NGOs has had two important consequences: First, as the literature argues, it reduced political pressure for the expansion of federal regulation. Second, it allowed corporations to organize and lead that same constituency toward their preferred alternatives. But this is anticipative; testing this general theory requires application in concrete case studies. Recycling is a paradigmatic example of individualized environmental politics. It focuses on the endpoint of commodity production rather than the source, and it serves as an alternative to more effective producer-oriented legislation. Its triumphant institutionalization circa 1990 functioned as a model for all that would follow. A sociological understanding of the origins of recycling is therefore crucial for understanding the broader set of practices of which it is a case. I argue that the rise of recycling and the failure of producer-oriented alternatives is the result of a hegemonic strategy led by the beverage and packaging industries. In the decades following World War II, those industries centralized production and distribution of disposable packaging, replacing the previous model of decentralized production and reusable packaging. This decision was challenged by legislation at all levels of government. Recycling was publically promoted and materially supported by these industries beginning in the late 1960s as an alternative. That promotion involved organization through civil society, especially through the putatively environmental organization Keep America Beautiful (KAB), whose organizing campaign combined an ideological emphasis on personal responsibility and community self-reliance with extensive material support for recycling. Contrary to popular and some sociological accounts, I argue that the “environmental movement,” or “recycling movement,” conceived as a bottom-up social movement, was not the leading force behind recycling’s institutionalization. In this research, I build on previous accounts of recycling and contribute original analysis of archived documents produced by government, industry, and the “recycling movement,” most importantly by the organization Keep America Beautiful. There is little sociological research on recycling, and the few examples tend to neglect the origins of the practice. I therefore make an empirical contribution to the literature on recycling and U.S. environmental politics. I also make a theoretical contribution by positing a generalizable causal pathway through which class politics has structured the meaning of “environmental” practice. Finally, I demonstrate that Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony explains recycling and key aspects of modern environmental politics: a lack of progress on producer-oriented legislation, and the relationship between a weak environmental movement and “individualized” environmental micro-politics. The article unfolds as follows: First, I outline the empirics of the recycling system and justify it as a case study. Second, I review previous literature on recycling, identify alternative explanations for the phenomenon, and explain where they fall short. The bulk of the article presents primary archival research of the crucial historical junctures leading to the institutionalization of curbside recycling. I conclude with a discussion of the evidence, and advance a theory of the broader “individualization” of environmental politics. The Spill and the Spigot Recycling is a politically efficacious solution to the enviro-social problems of litter and solid waste. These problems matured over the second half of the twentieth century, owing to fundamental aspects of the postwar political economy. Unprecedented growth in rates of domestic production and consumption, and the whole constellation of societal changes that followed and supported it—interstate highways, suburbanization, the rise of supermarkets, and the growth of oligopolistic industries, to name only a few key factors—worked in tandem to open the spigot of commodity wastes, and gradually overwhelm the system of municipal collection practices established in the relatively austere Progressive era (Strasser 1999). The first social manifestation of this breakdown was the rapid growth of “litter.” By 1970, the problem of litter was joined by a concern that we were producing too much waste, visible or not. And by the mid-‘80s, there was widespread concern about a “garbage” or “landfill crisis” (Melosi 2005). The aforementioned changes in postwar society caused, and were enabled by, a widespread shift in product packaging.5 In the first half of the twentieth century, reusable packaging was the norm. Nearly all milk, yogurt, soda, beer, and wine were sold in refillable glass containers (Saphire 1994). After the war, these industries went through a process of consolidation and centralization. Their business model changed from decentralized production of beverages packaged in reusable containers, to the centralized production of beverages in disposable containers (see Figure 1). This was a boon for those industries: it greatly reduced labor and transportation costs expended in the collection, washing, and refilling of reusable containers (Weinberg, Pellow, and Schnaiberg 2000). However, it also had serious socio-environmental consequences, ranging from increased energy use to the rapid accretion of solid waste and litter. Packaging remains the single largest component of municipal waste (EPA 2015:9). Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Market Share of Reusable Bottles, 1947-1987 Sources: Beverage Industry Annual Manual 1979-1995; Muris, Scheffman, and Spiller 1993; Shireman 1981. Figure 1. View largeDownload slide Market Share of Reusable Bottles, 1947-1987 Sources: Beverage Industry Annual Manual 1979-1995; Muris, Scheffman, and Spiller 1993; Shireman 1981. Unlike many changes in the production process, these latter effects were immediately socially visible. The accumulation of packaging in public places provoked over a thousand legislative attempts at bans and taxes on packaging by 1976 (EPA 1972; Melosi 2005). Their aim was to encourage reuse, or to make producers and grocers responsible for collecting disposables (EPA 1972). Though almost all these efforts failed, “bottle bills,” which require a modest deposit on beverage containers, were passed in 11 states by 1980 (Shireman 1981). Recycling’s emergence is inseparable from these decades of attempts to impose top-down regulation. “Recycling” is not reuse, but rather a set of intermediary steps of mechanized processing that precedes remanufacturing. Recyclable items are collected, aggregated, commodified, and sold to a multi-material recycling facility, where they are re-sorted and processed into a new raw material. These materials are generally sold to manufacturers and processed as industrial inputs. As environmental policy, this process is at best marginally effective. Large amounts of energy are spent collecting and processing those materials. More importantly, its effectiveness in reducing waste is limited by its scope. “Municipal solid waste,” which is subject to recycling, amounts to some 250 million tons a year, a mere fraction (∼3 percent) of the 7.6 billion tons of manufacturing wastes produced in the U.S. economy annually (MacBride 2012:232). Nevertheless, recycling is a route for “going green,” counseled by governments, NGOs and schools, and a perennial focus for environmental psychologists interested in promoting “pro-environmental behavior” (e.g., Steg and Vlek 2009). Recycling’s popular acceptance may seem “natural:” though consumers did not open the spigot of commodities and their associated waste, they appear to be the proximate cause of the spill they create. They are the end user of the packaging or product that becomes both litter and solid waste in a way that they are not the end user of, for example, industrial runoff. Feeling a sense of responsibility for it is therefore quite understandable. Recycling also provides individual benefits, including a sense of ethical relief that some argue may replace more substantive, yet burdensome political action (Hawkins 2005, Maniates 2001). However, none of this suffices to explain the rejection of top-down regulation and the acceptance of recycling; source-reduction legislation was proposed throughout the 1980s, while municipal recycling first emerged as a political possibility in the late 1960s. The notion that postconsumer waste could be “recycled” had to be promoted, its technology and operational standards developed, and the active consent of future recyclers obtained. How this was managed, and by whom, is not adequately explained in the existing literature. Understanding this process is the essential empirical task of this article. Why are we Recycling? Explanations of recycling’s institutionalization differ in key respects, especially regarding the character of the “recycling movement” and its relationship to the beverage, packaging, and waste industries. There are, however, several major points of agreement. First, recycling was not the result of federal policy (e.g., Lounsbury, Ventresca, and Hirsch 2003:92). It was a solution implemented across individual states and municipalities in the context of rising landfill costs and an apparent “solid waste crisis.” Second, it was not solely the product of the “recycling” or “environmental movement,” no matter how that movement is conceived (e.g., Weinberg et al. 2000:190). The existing literature defines the “recycling movement” quite variously, ranging from a “radical” social movement to collaboration between nonprofits and industry; this is partially because recycling did emerge in two waves, the first from roughly 1967-1974, in which voluntary community-based recycling centers grew rapidly only to be extinguished by market forces, and the second from the early 1980s into the 1990s, when for-profit curbside recycling was nearly completely institutionalized. Finally, some combination of the beverage, packaging, and waste industries had an essential role in recycling’s development; however, this role has not been sufficiently theorized or empirically substantiated. Explanations of industry’s role in the institutionalization of recycling diverge. One set of scholars explains it as primarily a result of the interaction of the “recycling movement” and the waste industry. Among these explanations include the groundbreaking sociological analyses of recycling conducted by Allan Schnaiberg, Kenneth Gould, David Pellow, and Adam Weinberg (see Gould, Schnaiberg, and Weinberg 1996; Weinberg et al. 2000). These authors theorize for-profit recycling’s institutionalization as a predictable outcome within the “treadmill of production,” or a capitalist economy governed by the profit imperative and serviced by a state prioritizing capital accumulation over ecological or social protections.6 Their explanation is essentially about co-optation: community-based nonprofit recyclers they studied in Chicago were “overwhelmed by dominant economic players” in the waste industry (p. 180). Michael Lounsbury, Marc Ventresca, and Paul Hirsch (2003) also focus on the relationship between the waste industry and the “recycling movement” in the rise of the recycling industry. Similar to Schnaiberg and colleagues, they argue that the early “radical social movement” of nonprofit recyclers enabled the growth of the recycling industry by developing “the principles and policies … that were subsequently adapted and incorporated into the core of the solid waste field by for-profit actors” (p. 73). Their analysis focuses on framing: before recycling reemerged, the waste industry viewed incineration as the only plausible form of “resource recovery.” The authors marshal considerable evidence to demonstrate that social movements pressured the waste industry to abandon incineration and the “resource recovery” concept entirely, opening the way for the “recycling” frame (p. 90). This is an important contribution to the literature. There can be no doubt that local environmental movements played a key role in at least a negative sense: by effectively precluding incineration as a “resource recovery” option, they cleared the way for socially and ecologically preferable alternatives. The authors also argue for a positive contribution of the “recycling movement” in the rise of the recycling industry. However, the “leader” of the recycling movement, the National Recycling Coalition (NRC), is simultaneously presented as a trade association composed of waste industry professionals and a “social movement organization” (Lounsbury et al. 2003:73, 87). It sits somewhat awkwardly in the same analytic category of “recycling movement” as the earliest “radical” proponents of recycling, the various anti-incineration, anti-landfill movements, and the grassroots community-based recycling centers that were overwhelmed by the same recycling industry promoted by the NRC (Weinberg et al. 2000). While all these groups can be analyzed as social movements, there are important class differences between them. The authors’ evidence and a review of the NRC’s annual conference proceedings makes the “trade association” label more appropriate within the framework employed here (NRC 1989). Moreover, the evidence of NRC’s leadership is relatively thin; few details of their size or how they wielded their power are provided, particularly within civil society, and their activities included the support of incineration. Finally, their corporate ties extended beyond the waste industry: The president of the NRC was the director of the National Soft Drink Association’s recycling commission from May 1987 until at least 1991 (Beverage Industry 1988, 1991). Stack is quoted in the industry’s annual trade publication stating: “It's important for the soft drink industry to direct the issue of recycling. Otherwise, we could end up being forced to deal with the issue because of legislation” (Beverage Industry 1992:104, emphasis added). While the consent of the waste management industry was a necessary condition for recycling’s institutionalization, it was not sufficient. Exclusive focus on it neglects the role of the industries involved in producing that waste, and the alternative option of source reduction measures. Under the political gun for decades, the packaging and beverage industries had much to lose if recycling didn’t take hold, and much to gain if it did. The argument that the beverage and packaging industries were the key parties responsible for recycling’s institutionalization first appeared in William Rathje and Cullen Murphy’s Rubbish! (2001), which argues that recycling emerged in the early 1970s “with the brief efflorescence of hundreds of grassroots buy-back centers … primarily the handiwork of well-intentioned activists wanting to promote environmental responsibility” (p. 196). Recycling failed after a few years, but was “eventually revived, owing in large measure to forces having nothing to do with [the earlier recycling movement]” (p. 196). The cause was the threat of bottle bills. The authors suggest that the beverage industry influenced the state through two avenues: lobbying against the bills and reviving recycling through the “Beverage Industry Recycling Program,” a network of voluntary collection centers established in the 1980s. Recycling was institutionalized because “the brewers [offered] states a deal: You get us off the hook on bottle bills—on having to collect and reuse the containers we sent out into the world—and we’ll solve the litter problem in our own way” (p. 199). These latter claims are not substantiated; however, the emphasis on the beverage industry’s role is an important piece of this puzzle (cf. Elmore 2012). Samantha MacBride’s exceptional, Recycling Reconsidered (2012), also forwards an industry-driven explanation of recycling. Yet here, again, the origins of recycling are not the central question. Instead, MacBride provides an unparalleled critique of the current system, and an explanation of the contemporary “recycling movement’s” unwillingness to formulate a better option. That reason is ideological: The movement is in the “shackles” of “hegemonic ideas” that they have themselves forged with business (p. 10). They have internalized a worldview that she believes runs counter to ecological sustainability: a belief that environmental problems can and should be solved by emphasizing individual responsibility and consumer choice, incremental change led by the opening of markets and increased commodification, public/private partnerships, and “education” (p. 222). These beliefs are said to largely be the product of “busy-ness,” or a feeling of “accomplishing something” that recycling provides and which diverts attention away from producer-oriented legislation. And this “busyness” has been actively promoted by various industries that profit from it. MacBride’s argument, therefore, has clear resonance with both my overarching theoretical questions and my empirical analysis. MacBride’s explanation for the rise of recycling is to project backwards that sense of busy-ness, and to generalize industry’s fooling, co-opting, and diverting the “grassroots recycling movement” (p. 79-80). The key evidence is drawn from an historical case study of New York City, in which she demonstrates that a preexisting environmental group was explicitly co-opted, funded, and controlled by the beverage and packaging industries. MacBride argues that these industries went on to co-opt the broader recycling movement. These same industries went on to become enthusiastic supporters of curbside recycling programs in the 1980s and 1990s. Firms within the nation’s waste-disposal industry who stood to benefit from municipal contracts to collect and process commingled curbside recyclables joined them at that point. It was just a matter of time until municipalities and counties, pushed by both civil society and industry, stepped in to take over recycling as a function of municipal service (p. 80, emphasis added). MacBride poses the strongest hypothesis in the literature for the decisive role of the beverage and packaging industries, and it calls for further inquiry. Several key questions remain: What were these industries doing outside of New York City and after the collapse of community-based recycling centers in 1974? How did their “enthusiastic support” lead to the institutionalization of municipal recycling? Why did so many environmental groups support recycling: were they all “co-opted” by industry, as in the New York case? Were those groups always under the illusions of “hegemonic ideas,” unwittingly working against their own interests? Finally, where did these ideas originate—why did they “forge them in collaboration with business” (p. 10)? Understanding the role of industry requires us to consider how environmental politics are a form of class politics. While the environmental movement has never conceived of itself as a class, nearly all socio-environmental issues implicate decisions made in the realm of production and lead to political struggles to control those decisions. This brings environmentalists into conflict with capitalists, who often organize as a class in response. Recycling is no exception: scholars agree that its institutionalization reflects a compromise involving environmentalists on one side, and the waste, beverage, and packaging industries on the other. However, the relationship between these industries and environmentalists remains unclear. How did this alliance come about, who was involved, and who was “leading” it? My research strategy takes up these questions directly, analyzing relations both within and between these groups. Recycling: The Rise of a Hegemonic Strategy Gramsci’s (1971) writings provide a rich framework for analyzing how class power is developed and wielded. Sociologists have applied his concepts to a variety of subjects and scales, from international development (Arrighi 1994), to authoritarianism (Riley 2010), peasant resistance (Scott 1987), and the workplace (Burawoy 1979), but only rarely to environmental politics (though see Levy and Newell 2005). Gramsci’s key contributions stem from the premise that classes, or class fractions, cannot merely “dominate” other classes or forcefully impose their will upon society, but must rather achieve a degree of consent. Consent is achieved through alliance and compromise, which, depending on each group’s organizational, economic, and ideological power, results in shared material benefits. Gramsci (1971:182) draws our attention to leadership strategies: a hegemonic group uses its bases of power to promote its interests as being in the general interest. This takes place on the ground of civil society: hegemony involves leading through the organization of civil society, designing and promoting political measures that do not disrupt the hegemonic group’s essential interests (pp. 160-61).7 Achieving hegemony is a difficult, contested process, not a foregone conclusion for dominant groups. In environmental politics, compromises between complex, often-contradictory set of interests must be maintained in the midst of shocks radiating from the growth of environmental degradation. Furthermore, because classes are not mechanically unified, hegemonic groups must coordinate two separate, interrelated hegemonies: within their own class, and between classes. While Gramsci (1971) seemed to view this as a linear process, with intra-class hegemony, or the establishment of class solidarity, preceding inter-class hegemony (pp. 181-82), he never clearly formulates the relationship between these two hegemonies. This raises a number of questions: Could inter-class hegemony precede intra-class? Is one possible without the other? And how does the loss of one affect the other? Sociological analysis that takes hegemony seriously needs to “process trace” how this balance is forged and maintained, while advancing a Gramscian theoretical perspective requires analysis of the undertheorized relationship between these two hegemonies. This research follows such a strategy. I trace the political history of recycling, beginning with the first ban on non-returnable glass bottles in 1953, with an eye toward class relations and the strategies of the beverage, packaging, and waste industries. It was apparent from my initial research into the 1953 bottle legislation that Keep America Beautiful, a unique political organization created and controlled by the beverage and packaging industries, played a central and underappreciated role by defending the current model of production from political challenges, defining individuals as responsible for pollution, and organizing consent to their preferred alternatives, including recycling. While KAB was noted in the literature, there was no in-depth analysis of the group or its role in recycling’s institutionalization (Elmore 2012; MacBride 2012; Melosi 2005; Rogers 2005; Weinberg et al. 2000). I fill this empirical gap through a focused study of the organization, collecting and evaluating the full range of KAB’s publically available documents. Much of the evidence is drawn from KAB’s internal newsletters, which describe their evolving hegemonic strategy, their alliances, and their accomplishments.8 This analysis was supplemented with studies of additional industry groups and efforts noted in the literature, including the National Center for Resource Recovery (NCRR), the National Recycling Coalition, and the Beverage Industry Recycling Program. Through KAB, the beverage and packaging industries did not merely co-opt existing groups or strike backroom deals; rather, they undertook a complex hegemonic strategy. They exercised leadership on a national scale to address the litter problem, and later the solid waste problem—problems of their own making—by offering and even preemptively executing plausible alternatives to legislation. This involved grassroots organizing throughout the country, the establishment of thousands of affiliates, an enormous public relations campaign, continuous advertising through major media outlets, and lobbying at all levels of government. KAB employed a hierarchical structure, with a central office in New York City and affiliates around the world. These included civil society organizations such as the Boy and Girl Scouts and the 4-H Club, environmental groups, major corporations, trade unions, and public agencies. They also established semi-independent divisions of KAB at the state, county, and municipal levels that carried their namesake, e.g., Keep Atlanta Beautiful. These latter affiliates acted as appropriate in their local context to fulfill strategies produced by the central office. All strategies were structured by KAB’s foundational etiological premise: individual consumers, not producers, cause environmental problems. Tactically, they took the form of public education and cleanup campaigns, the organization of voluntary recycling, and finally, municipal recycling. The hegemonic strategy pursued by the beverage and packaging industries was developed and renewed in response to three threats, which organize my analysis. In the 1950s, waste caused by the initial development of one-way containers led to restrictive legislation across the country. The beverage and packaging industries countered with the creation of KAB and the coordination of anti-litter groups in all 50 states. Their success led to alliances with other industries and the support of the state. However, their hegemonic position was jeopardized beginning in 1970, as continued expansion of municipal waste precipitated a challenge to their “public education” and voluntary cleanup solutions to litter. Facing environmental movement pressure, the resurgence of legislative challenges, and the loss of key allies, the beverage and packaging industries retaliated with a flurry of activity. Through the ‘70s, they lobbied against legislation, promoted “resource recovery” complexes, and supported voluntary recycling, with only mixed success. Most importantly, they strengthened their organizational ties and presence within civil society and the local state through KAB. This expanded KAB network proved critical in the 1980s, when the sustained growth of waste combined with sharply rising landfill costs to produce the “solid waste crisis.” During this crisis, KAB re-established their hegemony. It leveraged previous organizational ties and forged an alliance with the waste management industry to institutionalize municipally funded curbside recycling, a plausible “win-win-win” for industry, the local state, and environmentalists that, nevertheless, has not solved the problem of municipal waste. HEGEMONY FORGED: MORALIZING LITTER, MOBILIZING CIVIL SOCIETY On February 1, 1953, Vermont approved the country’s first bottle bill, which prohibited the sale of beer in disposable glass. The state’s farmers led the challenge; as the primary property owners along the state’s highways, they protested that glass bottles thrown from passenger vehicles harmed livestock and farm equipment (Fenton 1953). Vermont’s legislators were receptive to these claims for two apparent reasons: one-third of them were farmers, and litter cleanup by state employees cost $100,000 in man-hours annually (Smith et al. 1956). The beverage and packaging industries mobilized immediately against this challenge to their profitability and autonomy, and recruited other industries to join in class-based opposition.9 Their efforts eventually proved successful. While the bill was narrowly renewed in 1955, it included the requirement that a governor-appointed commission be set up to study highway litter and consider alternative solutions. On December 15th, 1956, that commission’s five members issued a report recommending against renewing the ban. The report’s authors asserted that holding bottle manufacturers responsible for the problem of litter set a dangerous precedent: [A]ll manufacturers are disturbed when legislation prohibits the use of a particular item which is otherwise lawful and legitimate even when such an item is not manufactured by any of these companies … Restrictive legislation of this type [establishes] a precedent which might someday affect all industry (Smith et al. 1956:13, emphasis added). The executive secretary of “Associated Industries of Vermont,” who was interviewed for the report, argued that the continuance of the bill would discourage any further economic development in the state (Smith et al. 1956). This energetic display of class solidarity stoked by the beverage and packaging industries is suggestive of their nascent organizing abilities. Also noteworthy is the innovative ideological character of their political campaign. The Litter Commission Report revealed perhaps the first effort by industry to define litter as a problem caused by “irresponsible individuals,” and the essential role this assignment of blame played in the bill’s repeal. The Commission noted that its investigation included “a series of conversations [with] Keep America Beautiful, Inc., the national organization which acts as a clearing house and information center for local movements concerned with the litter problem” (Smith et al. 1956:4). KAB’s consultation was persuasive. The commissioners dismissed reports made by the former highway commissioner, who estimated that the littering of glass bottles had dropped by 80 to 90 percent since the enactment of the bottle bill, and refuted the economic concerns of farmers.10 Instead, the commissioners appealed to what “many Vermonter citizens” believed was the “only” way to deal with the litter problem: “a sense of individual responsibility, cultivated through public education” (Smith et al. 1956:13, emphasis added). Governor Johnson was persuaded to create Keep Vermont Beautiful in 1955, and it and the commission “worked together very closely … in an effort to determine possible results of a campaign to lessen litter” (Smith et al. 1956:14). Those efforts included the placement of 2000 brightly painted trash containers alongside the road labeled with “Keep Vermont Beautiful.” This was complemented by the cultivation of individual responsibility through public education: Keep Vermont Beautiful had established a program in primary schools by the time of the commission’s report (Smith et al. 1956). Early educational interventions would become a key pillar of future strategies to encourage “environmentally responsible” behavior. The ban was lifted in 1957. The commission concluded that, in its place, “the program started by Keep Vermont Beautiful, with the cooperation of the Department of Highways and other State agencies [should] be continued, with the cooperation of all individuals and civic organizations throughout the State” (Smith et al. 1956:16). The result, then, was a capitulation to industry lobbyists, rationalized as a compromise with a purportedly neutral civil society organization. Packaging regulation, threatening to industry autonomy and costly to the state, was apparently unnecessary so long as individuals could be educated to act responsibly. This compromise was forged by Keep America Beautiful, which convinced state officials of its ability to solve the litter problem, and began organizing the consent of civil society for assuming responsibility for that problem in 1953. Those in support of the ban had no such organization. The success of KAB’s first campaign led to replication throughout the country. KAB’s five-year “progress report” detailed its strategy to establish itself as the lead force organizing against litter (KAB 1959). It boasted of “dramatic” success in coordinating a national network “composed of divergent and competitive interests—industry, labor, business, government, and voluntary civic groups [for] a cooperative attack on a common problem” (p. 2). These boasts appear deserved: by 1959 KAB had a hand in litter prevention programs in all 50 states, distributed its elementary education booklet, “Annie Doesn’t Litter Anymore” (KAB 1955), to 100,000 instructors, and published a regular newsletter with suggestions for discouraging littering to affiliates nationwide (p. 2). They coordinated these local efforts through a national advisory council “comprised of four federal government departments and more than 50 national public interest organizations with memberships totaling 70,000,000 citizens” (p. 8). The council also featured prominent national environmental organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Izaak Walton League. In sum, by the late 1950s, the beverage and packaging industries had successfully coordinated their interests with those of the rest of industry and civil society, establishing both inter- and intra-class hegemony. KAB’s tactics stabilized; it settled into a relative comfort zone, organizing litter cleanups and “public education” campaigns across the country. However, they could not afford such complacency for long. Waste multiplied through the 1960s (EPA 2015) (see Figure 2), and both hegemonies proved fragile against the forces of history. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Municipal Solid Waste Generation, 1960-2010 Source: EPA 2015. Figure 2. View largeDownload slide Municipal Solid Waste Generation, 1960-2010 Source: EPA 2015. HEGEMONY CHALLENGED: ADDRESSING THE ENVIRONMENTAL MOVEMENT The modern environmental movement—distinguished from earlier environmentalists by their concern for achieving a safe, livable, built environment free of “pollution” more than preserving “natural” wilderness areas—burst onto the political scene on the first Earth Day, April 22,, 1970 (Brulle 2000). It was an impressive display of strength, with 12,000 to 13,000 events spread throughout the country (Rome 2013:116-64). Environmentalists blamed industry for pollution, and the latter came under intense pressure as a class on multiple fronts. The beverage and packaging industries’ inter-class hegemony was jeopardized: the old strategies of litter cleanups had evidently failed—packaging, particularly beverage packaging, was perceived as a key form of litter polluting cities, and activists supported bottle bills around the country (EPA 1972). National bottle bills were introduced to Congress in 1970, 1972, and 1974 (Elmore 2012). State-level bills were more prevalent, and by 1976 over 1,000 such legislative proposals had been introduced (Melosi 2005:225).11 Though few of those bills passed, legislation mandating a deposit paid on each container was first established in Vermont and Oregon in 1972. With the return of the specter of state regulation, and in the wake of major federal environmental legislation, the beverage and packaging industries worked to shore up their hegemonic position from both angles. They spent millions fighting bottle bills and legislation promoting re-use, and in the vast majority of instances were successful (Gould et al. 1996:135). They also expanded efforts to lead in the establishment of constructive solutions to the problems caused by their practices. As in the Vermont case, they pursued inter-class hegemony within civil society, and largely through Keep America Beautiful. This involved the production of highly successful national advertising campaigns, the development of a more comprehensive and permanent anti-littering system, the establishment of national holidays to rival Earth Day, and tighter relationships with the state. The beverage and packaging industries also attempted to forge two new alternatives to legislation, including centralized, high-tech and capital-intensive “resource recovery” centers, and the promotion of voluntary recycling. KAB launched its counterattack on the first anniversary of Earth Day with a public service announcement (PSA).12 In the spot, the actor Iron Eyes Cody plays a Native American paddling down a river, visibly upset by the litter polluting it.13 After he reaches the litter-strewn shore, a car speeds by: its passenger tosses a bag of trash out of the window that lands on the protagonist’s foot. Iron Eyes Cody sheds a single tear. A simple message closes the ad: “People start pollution. People can stop it.” This is KAB’s best-known legacy, and it surely constitutes its most purely “ideological” strategy. Commonly known as the “Crying Indian Ad,” it remains an exemplar of propaganda and staple of advertising and public relations textbooks. Produced by KAB and funded by the federal government, Iron Eyes appeared in nearly 40 million dollars of free advertising in 1975 alone (KAB 1976a:2). The 1975 campaign achieved 1.4 billion TV impressions across 63,643 ads, 832,256 radio ads, 427 newspaper ads, 57 business press ads, and 176 magazine ads (p. 2). The campaign continued for decades, earning Iron Eyes Cody and KAB a significant measure of fame. For KAB’s 25th anniversary, a meeting was arranged in the Oval Office between President Carter, Iron Eyes, and the KAB president (1978). Less known, but crucial for understanding KAB’s legacy, are its organizational efforts through civil society, which grew far more comprehensive in response to the legislative and social movement pressures outlined above. KAB began these efforts with the multiplication of “public education” campaigns and litter cleanup events. By 1976, it claimed a federation of seven thousand local affiliates involved in organizing cleanups and spreading its message of environmental responsibility (KAB 1976b:1). The “Waste in Place” school curriculum was officially introduced in 1979 (KAB 1979a). It also targeted policymakers with the “Inventory of Environmental Improvement Programs,” which enumerated the ways corporate America was working to solve environmental problems (KAB 1973). Shortly after the announcement of Earth Day 1970, KAB established its own competing holiday for the environment: “Keep America Beautiful Day.” KAB even forged the beginnings of an international presence: 37 countries were involved through “Clean World International,” established in 1974. Despite this success, the organizing model established in Vermont was no longer sufficient to maintain the beverage and packaging industries’ intra-class hegemony, and KAB lost important allies. Crucially, the EPA, a KAB national advisory council member, publically repudiated KAB’s efforts. In 1972, the EPA issued a report on the “beverage container problem,” arguing that voluntary litter cleanup, even KAB’s “large efforts […] when more than two million people picked up litter” were nevertheless insufficient, and advised that a national tax on all beverage containers be implemented (EPA 1972:81-85, emphasis added). In 1973, during KAB’s annual advisory council meeting, the EPA articulated clearly the sense of shock and uncertainty provoked by the new environmental radicalism, criticized KAB’s relatively simple anti-litter campaigns, and later, left that council (Williams 1973). KAB also lost several major environmental groups from the advisory board. KAB later admitted that “by 1972, it was evident that a more sophisticated approach was needed” (KAB 1982b:4). Facing the crumbling of both intra- and inter-class hegemonies, the beverage and packaging industries regrouped. KAB’s “more sophisticated approach” was to strengthen their inter-class hegemony through expanded organization in civil society. Their key offensive vehicle was the “Clean Community System” (CCS), essentially a more sophisticated version of KAB’s previous cleanup efforts, but “based on behavior science techniques,” and institutionalized as a permanent organization funded by municipalities, counties, or entire states (KAB 1976a:1). CCS came with an annual cost of $10,000 to $100,000, and appears as a serious, albeit blinkered, effort to control litter, and later, solid waste (KAB 1982b:2). The program design involved the documentation of a “baseline” litter volume from which to measure progress, and the targeting of cost-effective litter abatement strategies. Communities were certified as “clean” only after the leaders of their local KAB affiliate attended a two-day training course, the mayor endorsed the program, and the community’s sanitation director “evaluat[ed] the local litter/solid waste situation” (KAB 1976b:1). The operations manuals produced over the years are weighty, complex documents. KAB’s (1983b) goal was to: “reduce littering by involving the entire citizenry in, first, achieving a consensus that a litter problem does exist and is solvable through voluntary action and, second, reaching out to business, labor, civic groups, media, schools and government to implement an ongoing program … ” Recycling efforts were a major part of the campaign: a 1980 KAB survey found that 86 percent of responding CCS cities considered recycling essential (p. 1). CCS successfully fused the industries’ two lines of attack; they pursued both intra-and inter-class hegemony by engaging civil society, industry, and all levels of the state. Unveiled in 1976 at a gala event at the Biltmore hotel in NYC and presided over by the publisher of TIME magazine (who also served as vice chair of the KAB board of directors), by 1978, KAB held CCS trainings regularly across the country, attended by top state officials and civil society leaders alike. Senators, state environmental officials, house representatives, and international KAB partners attended the Washington, DC, training. The program grew rapidly: 20 initial CCS cities in 1976 grew to over 245 certified communities and three certified states by 1982 (KAB 1976a:1, 1982a:1). Its previous organizing success provided the legitimacy, mass base, and organizational networks necessary for its development. Benefits were also promoted through KAB’s PSA campaigns featuring the “Crying Indian.” Commercial and industrial facilities were targeted through the “Clean Team” program, which “uses the CCS approach to unite labor and management in a cooperative effort [toward] the proper handling of scrap and waste” (KAB 1979c:1). CCS was also introduced to England in 1979 through KAB affiliate “Keep Britain Tidy Group,” as well as South Africa, Australia, Canada, Bermuda, and New Zealand (KAB 1979a, 1979c). KAB was not the only instrument through which the beverage and packaging industries acted; several less successful hegemonic attempts are worth noting. In an important case examined by MacBride (2012) they made a grab for inter-class hegemony by funding and controlling the agenda of New York City’s Environmental Action Coalition (EAC). Directly after Earth Day, the EAC’s fundraising wing included the CEO of 7UP, the executive vice president of the Aluminum Association, and a representative from Coca-Cola; it brought in funding from “aluminum, steel, glass, paper, and plastic trade associations; bottlers; container manufacturers; retailers and retail associations; beverage producers; beer distributors; and newspapers” (MacBride 2012:59). Unsurprisingly, the EAC behaved very much like KAB. It focused on individual responsibility for the generation of municipal waste: its executive director pointed to “people” in general as the cause of pollution, and reported feeling “furious” that “they create pollution wherever they go” (p. 56). It established an educational program for elementary school students, “Don't Waste Waste!,” and led the development of community-based recycling collection centers. These were initially successful; they established 20 community centers in two years and garnered the support of federal and state officials, including New York City’s EPA. The EAC explicitly raised funds because it was working to fight for alternatives to taxes, bans, and other regulations on containers (MacBride 2012). A letter between two industry representatives speaks of the threat of “punitive legislation” against disposable containers, and of EAC’s work being critical to stopping its passage in New York (p. 60). In a fundraising letter, the executive director of EAC described those legislative measures to tax and ban disposable containers as “wildfires” spreading across the state, advertised their services in spreading the message of “community involvement in self-determination of answers to the solid waste problem,” and affirmed that “a credible alternative to legislation must be found” (p. 60). And indeed, while promoting recycling the EAC fought successfully against packaging regulations, including a strong proposal put forth by the New York EPA to tax non-returnable containers in 1973. Shortly after this victory, industry severed its ties with the EAC (p. 65). The beverage industry, working independently, established the “Beverage Industry Recycling Program” (BIRP) in 1971. The reasoning behind their strategy is familiar, and openly noted in their premier trade publication, the Beverage Industry Annual Manual (BIAM). For example, “In Arizona, owing largely to the success of [BIRP], attempts at passing any kind of restrictive packaging legislation have not gotten very far” (Beverage Industry 1979). From the perspective of recycling’s history, BIRP appears as a modest complement to KAB’s actions. Like previous efforts at voluntary recycling, it was hindered in its efficiency, as it required consumers to make a trip to a BIRP recycling facility voluntarily. The program was also relatively small compared to the efforts of KAB; by 1989 BIRP programs were active within only 9 states, compared to 18 statewide CCS programs (Beverage Industry 1989:115; KAB 1990b:1). In 1970, the beverage and packaging industries founded the National Center for Resource Recovery (NCRR). It sought to demonstrate “the commitment of American industry and labor to help solve a significant public problem” (NCRR 1981:51). The corporations represented on its board of directors largely overlap with KAB’s—their first chair was the CEO of PepsiCo—though with a more prominent place for unions. No members of the waste management industry were on the board. The NCRR’s strategy was quite different from BIRP or KAB’s: they pursued the development of cutting edge “resource recovery” technologies, especially the creation of expensive and labor intensive complexes that combined incineration of garbage (or “waste-to-energy”) with the automated separation of recyclable materials. It made no efforts at establishing inter-class hegemony by organizing civil society; instead it appealed directly to the parties involved in the creation of these complexes: financiers, mayors, the EPA, those owning related technologies, and the waste management industry. Consequently, its efforts were far less successful. Citing a loss of federal support, and following a string of failures to negotiate the construction of these facilities, the NCRR closed its doors in 1982 (NCRR 1981). This was no doubt due largely to social movement pressure and the inability of the NCRR and other proponents of resource recovery to promote the technology as being in the general interest. In sum, the relatively simple anti-litter and public education programs coordinated by KAB in the 1950s and 1960s were insufficient to contain the relentless expansion of solid waste and litter. The beverage and packaging industries’ inter- and intra-class hegemony were undermined, as the enviro-social problems caused by waste provoked social movement pressure, the proliferation of packaging legislation, and the loss of key allies. Those industries responded with a variety of tactics, some more effective than others. They engaged in lobbying on the federal, state, and local levels against bottle bills, and managed a hugely popular national advertising campaign that defined litter as waste caused by irresponsible individuals. They also increased efforts to design and implement alternatives to bottle bills. Through the NCRR, they sought to develop high-tech “resource recovery” centers; however, the NCRR failed to present these centers as in the general interest, and the organization folded. Through BIRP, the beverage industry established recycling centers, however, these efforts were relatively small and inefficient. KAB proved the decisive factor. It launched the CCS system, an inroad with civil society and the local state that organized voluntary solutions to litter and solid waste, including recycling. This combination of strategies proved successful at staving off most legislative attempts. However, none of these strategies addressed waste at its source; it continued to accumulate and generate new social problems. HEGEMONY RECONSOLIDATED: THE PROPAGATION OF RECYCLING By the early 1980s, the social problem of misplaced waste—litter—was overshadowed by the pressure exerted on the country’s waste infrastructure by its “proper” disposal. Sharp rises in landfilling rates for municipalities—those costs nearly tripled between 1985 and 1990—and a popular belief that landfill space was “running out,” led to the declaration of a “solid waste Ccisis” (EPA 2015; Melosi 2005). Never letting a good crisis go to waste, KAB leveraged their strong organizational position within civil society—their inter-class hegemony—to strengthen their intra-class hegemony. They established a stronger alliance with the waste industry and the state with the goal of municipal recycling, an apparently mutually beneficial exit. For municipalities, it promised a fresh income stream and the reduction of landfill fees. For civil society, it would reduce environmental impacts. And, for the beverage and packaging industries, municipal recycling would nullify the political threat of packaging legislation while securing a cheap, reliable source of raw materials. It was, in short, an ideal hegemonic strategy. In 1982, immediately after the NCRR closed its doors, KAB announced it was “officially entering the recycling field” (KAB 1982a:1). It created a recycling advisory committee headed by an executive from Continental Can and representatives from six industries involved in the manufacture of packaging (p. 1).14 It quickly grew to include representatives from the beverage industry (KAB 1983b). The committee planned to expand recycling by leveraging KAB’s preexisting organizational networks. KAB President Roger Powers stated at the launch: It is significant that the KAB recycling effort will not be limited to packaging. It will include all kinds of recyclable materials. We look forward to expanding our technical expertise in the recycling field and to calling on the substantial knowledge of local CCS coordinators in designing the citizen-education and communications aspects of the KAB recycling prototype (KAB 1982a:1). In an implicit acknowledgement of the failure of voluntary, nonprofit recycling efforts, KAB’s new strategy defined the appropriate role of civil society: the dutiful cooperation with private recycling collection centers. In order to make recycling economically viable, KAB would rally civil society groups to participate fully in for-profit recycling (KAB 1982a, 1983a). The committee created the CCS Multi-Material Recycling Manual, released in 1983 to great success.15 The 94-page manual provides guidelines for integrating recycling into CCS programs and for promoting recycling in the community. It also contains detailed technical information on setting up a recycling center, collecting recyclables, and bringing them to market (KAB 1983b). These were no doubt useful, as CCS programs were already actively involved in promoting recycling. Some CCS cities had already institutionalized limited curbside recycling (KAB 1980:1, 1981a:1). As KAB promoted recycling, its inter-class hegemony strengthened. The CCS system nearly doubled, from 265 certified communities in 1982 to 450 by 1988 (KAB 1988a:2). Statewide CCS systems numbered 18 by 1990. The system included strategically important cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and the state of California (KAB 1987b, 1990b). The symbolically important Islip, home of the infamous “garbage barge,” also joined the system; Islip even presented on their “recycling success” at KAB’s thirty-sixth annual meeting (KAB 1989b, 1989c:1).16 These committed members stood alongside 35 state and thousands of local non-CCS affiliates who carried out KAB’s mission (KAB 1982b:4). “KAB Month” was inaugurated in 1987, and participation was high: at a Phoenix litter cleanup “3,000 volunteers collected 1,200 tons of litter in one day—66 tons of it recyclable” (KAB 1988a:2).17 Its public relations campaigns also thrived: By 1982, 500 million dollars of free ad time had been secured, making over 15 billion impressions (KAB 1983a:3). The “Crying Indian” Iron Eyes Cody enjoyed a 94 percent public recognition rate, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and a congratulatory message from President Reagan (KAB 1983a:3). KAB’s inter-class hegemony—its success in civil society—allowed it to reconsolidate its intra-class hegemony. This included a stronger relationship with the top levels of the state. Despite the “waste crisis,” the Reagan administration had no intention of breaking precedent and setting a strong federal policy on municipal waste management (Gould et al. 1996:137). Instead, it was left to states, voluntarism, and the market. KAB’s mission aligned perfectly with this strategy, and the administration evidently saw it as an ideal vehicle for reform. President Reagan addressed the KAB Awards ceremony, stating, “The CCS program exemplifies the type of positive voluntary action that this Administration supports … Americans want less government involvement in their lives, and volunteer programs such as yours make that happen” (KAB 1982a:5). KAB’s president maintained that “Americans must first get involved in local social issues—such as proper waste handling—before a major cutback in government and reduction in taxes can be realized” (KAB 1981b:4). KAB partnered with the White House on “Take Pride in America,” a federal public lands initiative. The communications director of that initiative served as the president of KAB’s national advisory council. Reagan’s “special assistant on private sector initiatives” praised the CCS Multi-Material Recycling Manual (KAB 1983a). Clinton and McCain also paid their respects to KAB and CCS (KAB 1987a, 1989c). Fifteen years after its repudiation of KAB’s tactics, the EPA rejoined KAB’s national advisory council (KAB 1988d). It was the fourteenth federal agency to do so, alongside 72 civil society organizations. KAB celebrated in its newsletter: “Earlier this year, EPA sought KAB’s counsel in developing a strategy for addressing the solid waste management problems facing this country” (KAB 1988d:2, emphasis added). The EPA went on to join KAB’s Solid Waste Task Force and sign a resolution that committed them to “work in cooperation with Keep America Beautiful to continue public education efforts, promoting recycling across the nation” (1990a:6). The second crucial piece of KAB’s intra-class hegemony was a new alliance with the waste industry. Waste Management International (WMI) and Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), which dominated the industry, partnered with KAB to promote “integrated waste management” (KAB 1981a).18 The motive for the partnership is clear: the two waste giants possessed the technology and expertise to manage combined recycling and garbage pickup, and therefore secure the lucrative contracts for that service, but they lacked the organizational capacity to lead its institutionalization. Meanwhile, the beverage and packaging industries lacked the necessary technology, but, through KAB, had a national organization with social networks and legitimacy that could be leveraged to “offer communities a waste management plan” (KAB 1988a:2). The cooperation between these industries was extensive. BFI initiated CCS programs and supported the program nationwide by 1981 (KAB 1981a). WMI funded the second edition of the CCS recycling manual (KAB 1987b), and workshops to “train the trainers,” the KAB staff who walk local communities through the CCS certification process (KAB 1988c).19 BFI financed the new edition of the CCS certification and pre-certification manuals (KAB 1988b). WMI won the 1987 KAB Corporate Award, and stood alongside the editor of the trade publication Waste Age on the judging panel of the 1988 awards (KAB 1988b, 1988c). The main event of KAB’s thirty-fifth annual meeting was the “solid waste symposium,” which began with a video address by Browning-Ferris’s CEO (and founding head of the EPA), William Ruckelshaus. In 1988, KAB established a “solid waste task force,” which brought together the waste industry with the EPA (KAB 1988c).20 That task force quickly released KAB’s most popular publication yet: Overview: Solid Waste Alternatives (KAB 1989a). Over 30,000 copies were sold: they were distributed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors to all towns with a population of 30,000 or more; the American Public Works Association, a longtime KAB partner, distributed over 2,000 copies to its members; 1,200 were distributed to editors of major newspapers (KAB 1989b:1). The manual discusses source reduction (1 page), incineration (5 pages), landfilling (1.5 pages), but gives by far the most attention to recycling, with 10 pages. In sum, the inter-class hegemony of the beverage and packaging industries, seriously threatened in the 1970s, was resecured in the midst of the “solid waste crisis.” Beginning in 1982, they abandoned the promotion of “resource recovery” facilities and threw their organizing weight behind recycling. Their public credibility as leaders in solutions to the waste issue reached a pinnacle, as evidenced by media exposure, official state recognition, and, critically, expanded networks of influence through civil society. By the late 1980s, KAB also reconsolidated intra-class hegemony by leveraging that inter-class hegemony. It established crucial alliances with the waste industry and the state, and stitched together a coalition of all parties necessary for the institutionalization of municipal recycling. Because of this work, recycling “emerged as a consensual policy” (Weinberg et al. 2000:44). To cash-strapped municipalities, recycling promised reduced landfilling costs and a new revenue stream. For environmentalists, it appeared as a progressive development, and a way for each to “do their part.” Consequently, the period from 1988 to the early ‘90s saw the rapid increase in municipally funded curbside recycling programs: from 600 in 1989 to over 4,000 in 1992 (Elmore 2012:499) (see Figure 3). Figure 3. View largeDownload slide Municipal Recycling Programs, 1978-2011 Sources: Elmore 2012; EPA 2014; Lounsbury, Ventresca, and Hirsch 2003; Melosi 2005. Figure 3. View largeDownload slide Municipal Recycling Programs, 1978-2011 Sources: Elmore 2012; EPA 2014; Lounsbury, Ventresca, and Hirsch 2003; Melosi 2005. CONCLUSION: HEGEMONY AND INDIVIDUALIZATION Recycling is the provisional outcome of political struggles waged over the latter half of the twentieth century to control the expansion of municipal waste. Two political positions were advanced for addressing this waste: one targeted production, the other, disposal and consumption. The groups most threatened by producer-oriented legislation, the beverage and packaging industries, consistently advocated against such measures, and in favor of “individualized” framings and solutions. Their success depended on forging alliances within the dominant class, and securing consent to solutions that targeted consumption and disposal. Securing this consent involved ideological and organizational work throughout civil society. The long battle waged by these industries is best understood as a campaign for hegemony. Additionally, this research has elaborated Gramsci’s conception of hegemony. Rather than a linear progression of intra-class hegemony leading to inter-class hegemony, as he expected, the beverage and packaging industries’ intra-class hegemony also depended upon their inter-class hegemony. In other words, intra-class hegemony was not sufficient for inter-class hegemony, yet inter-class hegemony was necessary for at least sustained intra-class hegemony. External political shocks and dissent within their coalition shaped their strategy, and several unstable compromises were reached before municipal recycling could emerge. The beverage and packaging industries first established inter-class hegemony—the ability to represent the interests of the beverage and package industries as the interests of all—through KAB’s successful organization of civil society in response to litter. Vermont was the battleground on which the framing of litter as personal responsibility and the establishment of a consumer-oriented framework for its prevention first proved successful. KAB replicated this model throughout the country in the 1950s and 1960s; its success attracted key allies in industry and the support of the state—intra-class hegemony. However, inter-class hegemony was jeopardized in 1970 with the emergence of the modern environmental movement, which brought increased legislative pressure and the loss of key allies both within the dominant classes and in civil society. In response, the beverage and packaging industries embarked on three very different efforts, and not always as a unified front: research, design, and construction of “resource recovery” (incineration) plants, promotion of community-based recycling centers, and expanded organization of civil society through KAB’s CCS. However, local environmental groups successfully contested “resource recovery” plants, and voluntary recycling centers were inefficient and uneconomic. Neither constituted a durable solution to solid waste. CCS alone was also not a solution; however, the organizational networks and legitimacy it established through civil society proved most useful: they bolstered KAB’s (and industry’s) inter-class hegemony, which was crucial to ultimately reconsolidating their intra-class hegemony. In the midst of the subsequent “waste crisis,” KAB leveraged these resources to forge a new alliance with the waste industry and the state to promote municipal recycling, which promised benefits for all parties. The beverage and packaging industries, then, led to the institutionalization of recycling in its current form: a publically subsidized, environmentally legitimate, and legally required practice. This confirms much of the existing literature, while sharpening our understanding of how it was accomplished. Despite their class position and economic power, recycling was not the result of a backroom deal with the state, or the wholesale co-optation of local environmental groups. Forging consent to their preferred solutions required a multi-decade organizing effort on the grounds of civil society in which recycling’s technology was developed, its environmental credentials bolstered, and its logic and morality constructed—the sort of mass-based, national-level grassroots organization that the major environmental groups have avoided (Gottlieb 2005; Skocpol 2013; Tokar 1997). Only through this organizing effort could they reconsolidate intra-class hegemony to accomplish their goal. This analysis of recycling has important implications for any theory of individualized environmental politics. First, focusing on the practice of recycling itself, we could say that it has been ideologically successful on an individual level. It remains a highly popular daily practice, which reinforces the moral logic/etiology of individual responsibility, and the affirmation/distraction MacBride calls “busyness.” While KAB still promotes recycling, their contemporary efforts pale in comparison to their former efforts documented here and, more importantly, to what municipalities, businesses, schools, and environmental groups currently undertake to promote it. Recycling’s legitimacy is almost universally taken for granted. Second, the rapid institutionalization of the seemingly miraculous process of “closing the loop” has plausibly exerted a causal effect on later environmentalist practice and policy. Recycling was the paradigmatic environmental “solution” of the watershed Earth Day 1990, when ideas of what it meant to be an environmentalist were rapidly changing and becoming more intertwined with commerce. It paved the way for later efforts based on its transposable logic of individual responsibility, “win-win” politics, and market-based solutions. The corporate design of solutions to environmental problems now appears normal, whether “individualized” and targeting consumption or not (Bartley 2007). Personal carbon “offsets” and economy-wide carbon trading systems are the most consequential contemporary examples. Finally, this research suggests the value of a Gramscian theorization of environmental politics: individualized, micro-political solutions to macro-level socio-environmental ills have proliferated, and federal environmental regulation has faltered, due to the vacuum of power left in civil society by the lack of a nationally coordinated environmental movement. This vacuum allowed for corporate interests to organize in that space and change the character of environmental politics to suit their interests. The near abandonment of grassroots organizing by the national environmental organizations, therefore, had more serious consequences than legislative losses or inefficient practices like recycling: it ceded the very ground on which socio-environmental problems, their ethics, and their etiologies are constructed. With environmental politics under the hegemony of corporate interests, framings, practices, and policies have tended toward the individualistic. This hegemony remains unstable. Corporate-designed, individualized measures have proven unsuccessful thus far at severing the link between environmental degradation and industrial development. Recycling, for example, provides at best a modest counterweight to the expansion of waste, and even now it is in “crisis” due to the growth of lightweight packaging and rising transportation costs (Davis 2015). New strategies and leadership in environmental politics appear necessary to address the formidable set of environmental problems before us. The carriers of new solutions, so long as they operate within the framework of capitalism, will face the same challenges as KAB and other organizations representing the beverage and packaging industries, namely building alliances both within and between classes, organizing civil society, and championing solutions of mutual benefit. The author wishes to thank Michael Burawoy, Laura Enriquez, Mara Loveman, Martin Eiermann, Bill Welsh, Paul Chung, David Showalter, Alex Roehrkasse, Jonah Stuart-Brundage, David Osborn, Chris Herring, Sigrid Luhr, Simeon Newman, Shawna McCarroll, Alex Barnard, and the Social Problems reviewers for their incisive comments on previous drafts. Footnotes 1 This cannot be ascribed to the success of the original legislation or a reduction in environmental damage. Our collective cognizance of environmental problems, their social origins, and how their impacts are socially structured has greatly expanded over the last 40 years. 2 Examples include the World Wildlife Fund, the National Resources Defense Council, and the Audubon Society. The Sierra Club is a partial exception. 3 This trend continues today, though alongside an increasing realization that large-scale efforts are necessary. These efforts, however, are markedly different than earlier legislation. Instead of drawing boundaries between “nature” and “the market,” they depend on market mechanisms that dissolve this boundary and more fully commodify “nature.” 4 Some—generally outside of sociology—have also made the opposite argument in support of these strategies (e.g., Lorenzen 2014). 5 This change was driven by the new viability of national production and distribution, through the development of the national highway system and technological improvements in shipping. Increased competition and the growth of supermarkets, which competed based on the rapid turnover of new products, also drove this national consolidation (Saphire 1994:130-31, 143). 6 Gould, Pellow, Schnaiberg, and Weinberg’s research is a broad analysis of recycling, focusing mostly on effects. Their explanation for its institutionalization has the strength of breadth, noting the actions of the beverage and packaging industries and KAB in addition to the waste industry, though the latter, or perhaps the “treadmill of production” itself, is the prime mover. 7 The “essential” interest for capitalists is control over production (Gramsci 1971:161). 8 The use of industry documents carries certain pitfalls. It is likely that the newsletters in particular focus on the organization’s accomplishments, while omitting or de-emphasizing failures. However, even allowing for this perspective, the strategic choices they outline are corroborated by legislative documents (e.g., Smith et al. 1956), industry journals (e.g., Beverage World 1982), and to a certain extent the existing literature (Elmore 2012; Shireman 1981; Weinberg et al. 2000:17). 9 That industry opposition was behind the repeal of this bill is noted in the literature (MacBride 2012; Rogers 2005; Shireman 1981). Overlooked, however, is how they accomplished it. 10 The report’s authors commissioned an accountant from Price Waterhouse & Co. to testify against the claims made by the then-deceased former highway commissioner. Though the accountant provided no counter-evidence, he claimed he could find no evidence that “accurate records had been kept” and asserted there were no grounds to accept the commissioner’s estimates. This may have been strictly true, but all subsequent experiences with even less stringent bottle bills showed marked decreases in the litter of non-returnables. 11 Measures were even proposed that attempted to reduce and reuse wastes generated within the production process itself (Gould et al. 1996:127). 12 This followed KAB’s employment of Marsteller, Inc., the parent of Burson-Marsteller, as their PR Firm. The latter firm is infamous for its “crisis management” efforts (KAB 1979a). 13 Iron Eyes Cody was not actually a Native American. There is some irony here. 14 Members included the American Can Company, the American Paper Institute, The Continental Group, National Steel Corporation, Owens-Illinois, Inc., and Reynolds Metals Company. 15 The manual was created with the “guidance and suggestions” of the American Iron and Steel Institute, the American Public Works Association, the Institute of Scrap Iron and Steel, Inc., the National Association of Recycling Industries, and the Society of the Plastics Industry, Inc. 16 The “garbage barge” searched the globe for a landfill that would accept the waste materials it hauled. The public spectacle reinforced the idea that a “solid waste crisis” was underway. 17 This remarkable number undoubtedly includes the collection of old and abandoned vehicles. 18 Integrated waste management—the waste-handling regime that is in place now—is the combination of recycling and garbage pickup handled by the same firm. 19 In 1988, the “CCS system” was renamed the “KAB system.” For clarity I refer to it as the CCS system throughout. 20 Members included the EPA, the National Conference of Mayors, the Chamber of Commerce, and other state and civil society groups. REFERENCES Arrighi Giovanni. 1994 . The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times . Brooklyn, NY : Verso . Bartley Tim. 2007 . “Institutional Emergence in an Era of Globalization: The Rise of Transnational Private Regulation of Labor and Environmental Conditions.” American Journal of Sociology 113 2 : 297 - 351 . Beverage Industry . 1979-1995 . Beverage Industry Annual Manual. 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ARCHIVAL MATERIALS* Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1955 . “Annie Doesn’t Litter Anymore.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1959 . “Progress: Five-Year Progress Report on Keep America Beautiful.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1973 . “Inventory of Environmental Improvement Programs.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1976a . “KAB Reports No. 1.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1976b . “This is Keep America Beautiful, Inc.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1978 . “Special Report: President Carter Meets with KAB Officials in the Oval Office.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1979a . “CCS Bulletin February.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1979b . “CCS Bulletin March.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1979c . “CCS Bulletin August.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1980 . “CCS Bulletin March-April.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1981a . “CCS Bulletin January-February.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1981b . “CCS Bulletin June-July.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1982a . “CCS Bulletin No. 1.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1982b . “CCS Cost Benefit Analysis.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1983a . “CCS Bulletin No. 3.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1983b . CCS Multi-Material Recycling Manual . Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1987a . “Vision No. 3.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1987b . “Vision No. 4.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1988a . “Beautiful Communities: Announcing KAB Month.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1988b . “Vision No. 1.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1988c . “Vision No. 3.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1988d . “Vision No. 4.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1989a . Overview of Solid Waste Disposal Alternatives. Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1989b . “Vision No. 1.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1989c . “Vision No. 2.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1990a . “Vision: Fall.” Keep America Beautiful (KAB) . 1990b . “Vision: Spring.” Smith Milford K. , Newell Graham S. , Agnew Hugh , Allen Herman L. , Stafford Clifford C. 1956 . “Report of the Vermont State Litter Commission to Governor Joseph B. Johnson.” Retrieved February 2, 2017 (www.sec.state.vt.us/media/64655/1956_litter_commission.pdf). Williams Thomas. 1973 . “EPA: A Litter Bit Is Not Enough.” *Available from the Harvard Design Library KAB Collection and Interlibrary loan . © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: email@example.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Social Problems – Oxford University Press
Published: Aug 1, 2018
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