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79 four The Primitive Accumulation of Waste in Metallic Socialism By the early 1950s, there had evolved a pervasive cult of waste in Hungary . Enterprises registered, collected, and reused their own or other companies ’ wastes. Workers, managers, cooperatives, women, and students were all enlisted in nationwide waste collection campaigns, and material conservation was hailed as a most noble characteristic of Homo Sovieticus. Yet by the early sixties, a new complaint was voiced: not about failures in reuse, as in the fifties, but about the absence of waste dump sites. In 1961, the Executive Committee of the Council of Budapest complained that there was no ‘‘regulation concerning the neutralization of waste and garbage of industrial origins’’ (BFL 1961, 63), and in 1967 authorities called attention to the mounting practice of ‘‘depositing [waste] without permits in the capital’’ (BFL 1967, 13). From the perspective of the enterprises that were doing the illegal dumping, one sees the flip side of the problem: their futile search for landfill sites for their wastes. In the year 1968 alone, for example, the Budapest Chemical Works approached eighteen organizations in search of a dump, in vain. What was going wrong? Why didn’t these companies simply recycle or reuse their by-products? And why couldn’t they dispose of their unutilized wastes? These are the questions I will address in this chapter, concluding discipline and recycle (1948 – 1974) 80 that the metallic waste model and the waste policies of the 1950s developed unintended consequences whose effects started to be felt less than a decade after their inception. First, the waste movement encouraged the generation of even more wastes, resulting in a hypertrophied waste regime. Second, due to the limitations of the metallic concept of waste, the waste movement led to the accumulation of nonrecyclable wastes, especially chemical wastes. I will discuss this second type of unintended consequence through the case of the above-mentioned chemical plant, the Budapest Chemical Works (BCW). Hypertrophy The early state socialist waste concept treated wastes as useful, multifunctional , pliable materials. Nevertheless, as I argued before, the key goal was to make sure these wastes were collected and redistributed; reducing them or making sure they were economically reused remained of secondary importance. This attitude to wastes was very well represented in the design of bookkeeping. Experts in the eighties claimed that ‘‘the registry of wastes had been completely fused with the enterprise’s material management (with its analytic material bookkeeping), unfortunately so much so that wastes have been entirely inseparable from total material use’’ (Ladó, Romhányi, and Büchner 1983, 80). This system accepted as real input even those materials that, in reality, were turned into waste during the production process. For example, if in the manufacturing of a dress, six square meters of textile were used, but a half–square meter was dropped during tailoring, then the actual material use to appear in the accounting was not five and a half but six square meters. The half-square-meter piece of waste showed up in one of the material inventory accounts, called ‘‘waste materials,’’ but only if this amount of waste was collected and taken back to the stockrooms. As, however, the cleanup and the reentry of waste in the inventory occurred only periodically, and at a pace different from that of the production process, the exact amount of waste generated in each production process could not be determined. Furthermore, wastes that had been simply thrown out, drained, lost, or stolen did not show up on paper. Other waste materials were not fit for storage, such as electricity, water, or steam, or had a small value and ended up under the category of ‘‘current productive use’’ (KSH 1983, 101). Thus, in its effort to register by-products as credits rather than losses, the Hungarian bookkeeping system was inadequately equipped to keep records of production waste. But if the usefulness of waste was clear, the usefulness of waste reuse was The Primitive Accumulation of Waste in Metallic Socialism 81 not. This discourse on waste, in fact, turned out to be counterproductive. First, because the reuse of waste materials itself required additional raw materials, energy, and labor, which, along with most products, were all in short supply, the already collected wastes were often left to rust and rot and turned into useless materials. As an evaluation of the Ministry of Mining and Energy put it: ‘‘Last year, the absence of materials and coverage for costs necessary for investments, experimentation, implementation or material...


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