CURRENT RESEARCH PROGRAM:
Rapid assessment of health and livelihood situations of waste pickers in Dhaka City, Bangladesh
Waste pickers make a livelihood by collecting recyclable waste from various places in low, middle and high income countries. This group of people constitutes the bottom layer of the waste recycling system and is considered one of the key stakeholders in the informal recycling sector in the solid waste management system. Generally, these people are poor, vulnerable to various kinds of occupational health risks/problems and diseases (e.g. flu, bronchitis, body injuries/pain, ulcers, high blood pressure) and are often marginalized. The proposed study will be conducted through participatory action research to assess the health risks and the livelihood status of waste pickers in Dhaka city in Bangladesh. The key aims are to provide some policy recommendations towards sustainable and inclusive solid waste management (UVic Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives – Faculty Research Grant).
Exploring Policies and Innovative Financing Mechanisms for Resource Recovery and Recycling Cooperatives
This project will develop two case studies on social innovation in waste management in Argentina and Brazil. The results will contribute to the elaboration of a SSHRC partnership development grant project on ‘networking the global community-based socioeconomic initiatives in resource recovery for reuse and recycling’. Exciting innovative experiences in social and solidarity economy are surfacing worldwide. Some cities have made significant progress implementing public policies encouraging the formation of cooperatives and social enterprises as strategy to minimize unemployment and enhance local development. Particularly in municipal waste management we see pioneering examples with cooperative organizations. This project is unique in spearheading research into innovative legal, political, economic and financing mechanisms that strengthen social economy initiatives in waste collection and recycling. Argentina and Brazil are promising countries in these grassroots developments. Both have large populations of waste pickers and the government has designed innovative federal and municipal laws supporting ‘informal’ recycling. What assets, policies, financing strategies are required to overcome barriers? How can communities creatively become re-invigorated by these specific instruments? What can these experiences teach the Canadian context, where community-oriented recycling receives growing attention in generating livelihoods and improving urban sustainability. The research applies a mixed methods case study approach encompassing document searches, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and observations of everyday experiences in recycling cooperatives. The results will potentially benefit any city administration pushing for greater environmental stewardship in solid waste management and will help refine the methodology to upscale the networking of community based economic initiatives in reuse, and recycling on a global scale. (UVic Internal Research/Creative Project Grant)
Informal recyclers in a long winter cold country with fast growing economy: A perspective from Mongolian solid waste management systems
The research seeks to establish baseline data on the state of the livelihoods, recycling activities and health status of informal recyclers in Ulaanbaatar City and in peri-urban Ger areas (informal settlements) in Mongolia. This study will uncover the socio economic situation of informal workers, which includes homeless and non-homeless populations, occasional recyclers, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups of individuals that engage in the collection and separation of recyclable materials. Furthermore, this research will focus on teasing out the interrelations and power relations involving different actors in solid waste management. This information will help in the development of a social business model for inclusive and integrated waste management developments. The results will support the policy makers in the development of relevant policies that include informal recycling and that will improve the living conditions and earnings as well as help protect the workers from solid waste-borne health risks and hazards. Finally, the data from this study will benefit other stakeholders such as enterprises involved in the informal recycling service chain, NGOs, and community based organizations (CBOs) in developing inclusive waste management strategies. (SSHRC Insight Development Grant)
Improving basic urban services in informal settlements – Linking waste research in Global South cities
This project aims at explaining the challenges and potential solutions in improving living conditions in informal settlements in cities of the Global South, via co-production in waste management. In informal settlements, poorly connected to formal services, waste pickers often collect and separate household solid waste. This activity results in many benefits to the urban community, as it improves residents’ quality of life and environmental health, generates income, and reduces the environmental footprint of the city. Yet, the waste pickers are one of the most excluded and impoverished segments of society. Many waste management programs have been launched to improve this situation, but both in policy and research there is an increasing concern with the knowing-doing-gap: the relationship between the goal of a sustainable waste management and what is achieved. The research questions are: how are waste management programs translated into practice in informal settlements? What are the organizational, social, and spatial difficulties encountered in the organizing of waste management services? How can such difficulties be overcome? The questions are answered through a) case studies of three cities (Diadema, Kisumu and Managua) where different participatory waste management programs have already been implemented b) interactive workshops with waste actors in each city, and c) scholar seminars in the cities to compare and contextualize the findings among a diverse set of stakeholders and academics. A relational understanding of organizing and space, influenced by Action-Net and Actor-Network Theory is the theoretical starting-point. (SRC The Swedish Research Council)
Participatory action oriented research on waste co-production in Brazil
The daily generation of large volumes of solid waste represents one of the most critical challenges for cities worldwide. In the Global South, approximately 1% of the urban population works in informal and organized selective waste collection, separation and commercialization. The Participatory Sustainable Waste Management (PSWM) project, a University Partnership in Development project between the University of São Paulo and the University of Victoria has focused on formal and informal waste management in the context of the cities in the Global South. These action oriented research interventions have studies the challenges in cooperative recycling in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, between 2006 and 2012. A follow-up project (the Coopcent ABC – SENAES/MTE 004 project), funded by the Ministry of Solidarity Economy of Brazil, is a continuation of the PSWM initiative and focuses particularly on scaling up experiences in coop recycling and strengthening cooperative networks for collective commercialization. The research uses a situated urban political ecology theoretical framework to analyze daily practices in solid waste management for structural change. The methodology applied is participatory and relies on workshops, interviews, diagraming, focus groups, and participatory observation.
Policy and Outreach for Re-Shaping Waste into Resources
The Community-based Research Lab collaborates locally, regionally, and internationally with other community-based initiatives and research centres. The laboratory also draws on knowledge generated through the lived experiences of marginalized groups such as informal and organized recyclers. The result is the exploration of more sustainable, equitable, and environmentally sound models of waste reduction and management. Changes to existing waste management practices are essential for climate change mitigation to be successful, as current patterns of consumption drive an unsustainable linear system of wasted resources and lost energy, of environmental pollution and ultimately contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. The accumulation of knowledge through participatory research has stimulated the need for wider dissemination. Such a need has outpaced the ability of the CBRL to communicate knowledge to diverse audiences, including policy-makers, practitioners, and the general public. For changes in waste management to take place, we must move beyond academic forms of knowledge diffusion (such as academic peer reviewed articles) to mobilize useful knowledge that can change practices and behaviours, resulting in economic and environmental gains. There is an urgent need to widely promote the responsible consumption of goods and resources, to reduce the transportation of solid wastes, and to generate less waste that ends up in landfills or incinerators. This research engages with the mobilization of knowledge collectively generated, particularly under the PSWM project and other previous solid waste related projects to achieve wider and multi-scalar dissemination of crucial socio-environmental information. The forms of dissemination privileged in this project are video, photography, flyers, posters, booklets and seminar, conference and workshop presentations. (SSHRC-Canadian Environmental Issues Public Outreach Grant)
GRANTED Research Awards, Scholarships, Consultancies
- Project: “Exploring Policies and Innovative Financing Mechanisms for Resource Recovery and Recycling Cooperatives”. UVic Internal Research/Creative Project Grant 2016-2017 (Principal Investigator)
- Project: “Informal Recyclers in a Long Winter Cold Country with Fast Growing Economy: A Perspective form Mongolian Solid Waste Management System”. SSHRC Insight Development Grant, 2015-2017 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Celebrating Participatory Sustainable Waste Management: collective voices of environmental stewards from the Global South”. University Partnerships in Cooperation and Development Program, Multiplying Tier 2 Results – 2013. Partner Institution: Faculty of Education University of São Paulo, Brazil (USP) (Dr. Nidia Pontuschka), 2013-2014 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Improving basic urban services in informal settlements – Linking waste research in global South cities”, Göteborgs Universitet. The Swedish Research Council. (Co-applicant), 2013-2016 (Research Participant).
- Project: “Work, social movements, environment and globalization: Popular education with recycling cooperatives and members of the Landless Movement” (continuation). CAPES, 2013-2014 (Scholarship).
- Project: “Work, social movements, environment and globalization: Experiences from recycling cooperatives”. CAPES, 2012-2013 (Scholarship).
- Project: “Mainstreaming Community-Based Research: A global study of effective institutional arrangements for the facilitation and support of research partnership between community groups and universities”. IDRC, since 2013 (Research Participant).
- Project: Policy and Outreach for Re-Shaping Waste into Resources”. SSHRC-Canadian Environmental Issues Public Outreach Grant, since 2010 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “The MOTHERS Pilot Project: Social enterprise and Binners in Victoria’s street-affected community” Collaboration with The Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG), Committee to End Homelessness and other partners. Funding: Vancity Community Project Grant, 2008-2009 (Research Participant).
- Project: “Participatory Sustainable Waste Management”. Funding: CIDA – UPCD Program – Tier 2, 2005-2011 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Resource recovery: a socio-economic and environmental paradigm: An engaging and educational capacity building production on inclusive waste management initiatives”. Funding: IDRC and Private funding, 2008 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Infrastructure requirement for research facility on sustainable livelihoods and communities in developing countries”. Funding: Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF) and UVIC, 2005-2008 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “The Binning community in Victoria: a participatory exploration for livelihood enhancement”. Funding: Human Resources and Social Development Canada . Collaborative researchwirh UBC, Geography. Overall project: “Knowledge transfer: Toward better practices in the reduction of homelessness in British Columbia”, 2007 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Participatory rapid appraisal of the fishing communities in Arraial do Cabo”. Funding: Petrobrás Ambiental. Collaborative research program of UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro. Overall project: “Socio-environmental management of the Marine Extractive Reserve in Arraial do Cabo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil”, 2007 (Research Participant).
- Project: “From Conucos to current-day urban agriculture: Cuba’s communal answer to food and health sustainability”. Funding: Office of International Affairs Development Project Seed Money Grants (DPSMG), 2005/06 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Urban waste co-management and sustainable livelihoods of informal refuse collectors and recyclers”. Funding: SSHRC 4A Decision Grant, 2005 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Participatory Sustainable Waste Management”. FUNDING: CIDA Development Fund. CIDA- UPCD Program – Tier 2 Project Proposal, 2004 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Waste scavenging, informal recycling and health in São Paulo, Brazil”. – Base line data collection on health related issues in waste scavenging. FUNDING: MSFHR-UVic Health Research Grant Preparation Program for New Investigators, 2004 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Governmental and community response to urban waste production: resource recovery and income generation in developing countries”. FUNDING: Internal Research Grant, UVIC, Feb. 2002 – June 2003 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Socio-economic assessment of traditional communities in mariculture and aquaculture in Brazil”, research project of the Brazilian Mariculture Linkage Program (BMLP). FUNDING: CIDA (May 2002 – Aug. 2003) (Research Participant).
- Project: “Rapid socio-economic assessment of fishing communities at the Sâo Francisco River in Brazil” (A situaçao sócio-econômica de comunidades de pesca no alto, médio e baixo rio São Francisco. FUNDING: World Fisheries Trust (June – July 2003) (Consultant).
- Office of International Affairs: Development Project Seed Money Grants (DPSMG) – 2002/2003. (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Unequal development: impasse to sustainability in rural and urban areas”. FUNDING: Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (Konrad-Adenauer Foundation), São Paulo, Brazil (1997 – 1998) (Consultant).
- Project: “Sustainability and social exclusion in cities of developing countries: A case study on São Paulo, Brazil”. FUNDING: RMC, Research Management Committee, University Newcastle, Australia, 1998 – 1999 (Principal Investigator).
- Project: “Industrial production and environmental politics. Case studies from São Paulo and Minas Gerais”. FUNDING: Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (Konrad-Adenauer Foundation), São Paulo, Brazil, 1996 (Consultant).
- Project: “Industrial production and environmental degradation in Cubatão, São Paulo, Brazil. Assessment and evaluation of socio-economic and environmental impacts, including a case study on biomonitoring to evaluate heavy metal contamination”. FUNDING: Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung (Friedrich-Ebert Foundation) and Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service). 1985 – 1989) (Doctorate Scholarship).
- Project: “Environmental change and dynamics in the periphery of São Paulo”. FUNDING: Fundação de Amparo e Auxílio à Pesquisa no Estado de São Paulo (Research Funding Agency of the State of Sâo Paulo). Department of Geography, University of Sâo Paulo USP, Brazil, 1983 (Scholarship).