How social ties influence metal resource flows in the Bangladesh ship recycling industry

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The ship recycling industry in Bangladesh provides critical metal resources for construction and consumer products in the country, which has no native metal sources. This industry illustrates how industrial recycling can arise in a self-organized manner and be maintained through social embeddedness. Information provided through interviews with shipyard owners, traders, and blacksmiths illustrate the importance of historical, cognitive, structural, and cultural embeddedness to maintaining the flow of metals from the ships beached in the coastal city of Chittagong to the capitol city of Dhaka, more than 300 km away. The industry began through small scale metal scavenging; the early scavengers developed the major metal trading businesses operating today, maintained by family relationships. The metalworking community maintains a balance between the strong family ties and weak social ties, ensuring an optimum flow of information among the businessmen in the community. The engagement with scrap handling produces a sense of pride and a pleasure of innovation that binds this community with waste recycling. Thus, the embeddedness of this community through self-recruitment and trade information via social ties directs the resource flows in the community.

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© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Publisher’s version of record: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2015.07.022

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Resources, Conservation and Recycling