Feedback from Round Tables on waste and common goods

The first « Festival de la Récup’ » (Recycling Festival) in the Region Ile de France took place from March 18th to March 24th 2013. This event was organized by ordinary citizen who are members of the collective « Festival des Utopies Concrètes » (FUC). On the subject of Common Goods, two discussions were scheduled : – Waste as Common Good of the Human World ! or gearing towards local citizen economy (Déchets, biens communs de l’humanité ! ou comment aller vers une économie locale et citoyenne (partie 1) – Transforming our Waste into Common Goods ! or regaining control over our waste (Transformons les « déchets » en biens communs ou comment nous réapproprier nos déchets (partie 2)

How were the two Round Tables organized? How was this experience limited? Why was it still enriching? What was said about Common Goods during these Round Tables?

How were the two Round Tables organized? For these Round Tables as for the entire festival the deal was clear : no budget, not much time for most speakers, and no leader to organize both conferences. The main Organizer of the event, « Festival de la récup’ », first wanted a big room with at least 300 seats. It was more about setting up conferences than round tables. And having a journalist from a national radio station to record the conferences was a strong wish. Finding people who would speak was not a problem.

Difficulties were more about :

1. finding a place that was properly insured for such an event and that also met other pretty high-level criteria.

2. preparing a program according to people’s availability and do that quickly because there was not much time to organize things.

So if money and time were short, enthusiasm, energy, and ambitions were high.

How was this experience limited? It was clear that things could not work the way people wanted them to. It was a first experience and participants didn’t know each other. Some instructions that were good but considered too «theoretical» had not been followed. Some people wasted energy due to a lack of method. We also experienced the concept of deconstruction – some people going in one direction and others modifying and building what they liked better. The goal was not clearly defined. What was the purpose of these conferences/round tables ? Was it to inform people in general, or to have the opportunity to gather specialists in one place to talk and learn from each other, mixing their opinion about waste in a global point of view ? The waste, a common issue ? Finally, though both debates have been recorded, legal and technical aspects have not been respected. There is, for instance, little chance that a member of the « Réseau Francophone autour des Biens Communs » would ever hear the content of these Round Tables. It will

probably be impossible to capitalize this experience in a library such as remix the commons.

Why was it still enriching? Nothing is perfect but considering the difficulties of the exercise, we can say that this experience was good and (intellectually) enriching for all participants. I think that all people taking part in these Round Tables learned important things together. It was not only information about but also behaving towards and approaching waste in different, non-institutional or sometimes non-official ways. This could be a step towards common initiatives against what we could call « enclosures ».

What was said about Common Goods during the Round Tables ? Here is a quick summary of what was said during these two round tables: Waste can be a resource for people. Some of this waste is confiscated and looted by private actors who build up monopolies and make a lot of money. Their system creates massive pollution, destruction of resources, and poverty for people. Many things should be changed. But apart from blowing the whistle on these practices, not much was said about practical alternatives and ways to

use empowerment. For instance in the concept of « do it yourself », why don’t we create societies and do things by ourselves without waiting for politicians or industrials? Out of fear, lack of organization or money? There was no theory of common goods during the Round Tables. The concept itself of « Common Good » was neither discussed nor defined. Nobody spoke about communities of waste and common rules. But it seems like we could be going towards building new communities of interests. Perhaps the next event « Paname en commun » (Paris in Common) will be an opportunity to mix theory and practice for common goods and bring new keys to build or reinforce communities?

CD-DL, 12 avr. 2013

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