Making Chains that (Un)make Things: waste-value relations and the Bangladeshi rubbish electronics industry

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There is growing empirical and theoretical interest in post‐consumption activity that results in the capture and creation of value from waste in the global economy. This article engages with two dominant approaches to tracing the capture and creation of value, global value chains (GVCs) and global production networks (GPNs), and their shared call to examine waste disposal and recycling. Using non‐participant observation, semi‐structured interviews, and a survey we examine what happens to the products of one of GVCs ‘and GPNs’ paradigmatic industries, electronics, when they are labelled e‐waste and are imported into Dhaka, Bangladesh, as rubbish electronics. Rather than wasting and final disposal predominating, our research documents a substantial rubbish recovery economy that captures and creates value anew. Consequently, we argue that both GVC and GPN approaches must rethink how they theorize the capture and creation of value.