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Recycling networks

Cooperativa Cidade Limpa in santo Andre

Cooperativa Cidade Limpa in santo Andre, Brazil

Research team
Millions of informal waste pickers collect household waste
daily in cities around the globe to earn a living. In doing so
they make a significant contribution to reducing the carbon
footprint of cities, recovering resources, improving
environmental conditions and health of low-income residents,
creating jobs and income among the poor.

Aim and research questions
The project aims at examining the challenges that innovative
grassroots networks encounter and the livelihoods they
generate, to improve recycling and household waste
collection in informal settlements of global South cities.
Strengthening of such initiatives, networks and practices
promotes grassroots resilience, contribute to reduce both the
adverse impact of cities on climate and environmental
change (UN sustainable development target 11.6) as well as
urban poverty (UN sustainable development goal 8).
The project offers a critical inter- and transdisciplinary
perspective on the issue of organizing resilience against
climate and environmental change through grassroots
initiatives such as cooperatives, associations, communitybased
organizations, public-private partnerships and

The project addresses the following questions:
Q1. Processes: How do these grassroots initiatives and
networks operate to bring about socio-environmental and
economic change?
Q2. Challenges: What are the organizational, institutional,
social, and material challenges encountered in the creation,
development and stabilization of these initiatives and
Q3. Opportunities: How can such difficulties be overcome?

The project's methodology is inspired by participatory action
research through a combination of:
a) a multiple case study on waste picker initiatives in
Managua (Nicaragua), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania),
Buenos Aires (Argentina) Sâo Paulo (Brazil) and Kisumu
(Kenya), based on interviews, observations, workshops
and document analysis.

b) joint knowledge co-production with regional and global
waste picker networks performing as knowledge hubs for
the project

c) an in-depth case study of the city of Kisumu, where the
learnings from the multi-case studies will be integrated

d) international joint research and waste picker seminars to
co-produce knowledge to conceptualize solutions to the

Theoretically, the project will contribute to applying and
expanding a combination of theories of socio-environmental
(e.g. Mair & Marti 2006) and institutional entrepreneurship
(e.g. Hardy & MacGuire 2008) with resilience (e.g. Folke,
2006) and grassroots innovation theories (e.g. Smith et al,

Preliminary results
•The potential of informal recycling networks to create green
employment growth and recycling jobs among low-income
•Waste management pilot projects supporting social
entrepreneurs have transformed city management practices
in informal settlements, leading towards hybrid models that
combine formal and informal practices, with modern and
traditional technologies.
•Small-scale waste pickers initiatives providing household
waste collection in informal settlements provide innovative
solutions driven by a rationality to address social and
environmental challenges in their neighborhoods.
•They also transform the institutional arrangements improving
political, legal and organizational conditions for the delivery of
environmental services; challenge notions of the public and
responsibility in environmental governance .
•Unlike the standardized knowledge generated by donors
and international organizations through ‘best practices’, easy
to pack but often difficult to replicate in other contexts, these
South-to- South bottom-up networks bring in locally
developed, innovative and flexible solutions, and also
learnings from their failures.
•The co-production of novel knowledge by practitioners and
scholars, that help understanding the challenges of
grassroots resilience for a low carbon society, in the context
of Southern cities.

Research team
• Jutta Gutberlet, Professor in Geography, University of Victoria, Canada, and Federal University of the ABC Region in São Paulo, Brazil
• Jaan-Henrik Kain, Professor in Urban Transformation. Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
• Michael O. Oloko, Senior lecturer in Environmental Engineering. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology Kisumu, Kenya.
• Goodluck Charles, Coordinator of Centre for Policy Research and Advocacy at the University of Dar es Salaam Business School, Tanzania.
• Jessica Pérez Reynosa, Associate professor in Business Administration, University of Central America, Nicaragua.
• Patrik Zapata, Professor in Public Administration, School of
Public Administration, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
• Sebastián Carenzo, researcher at CONICET; senior lecturer at the Institute for the Study of Science and Technology, National University of Quilmes, Argentina.
• María José Zapata, sociologist, Associate professor in Business
Administration, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, project leader.

Articles in scientific journals:
Gutberlet, J. Kain, J.H., Nyakinya, B, Oloko, M., Zapata, P., Zapata Campos, M.J. (2017) Bridging Weak Links of Solid Waste Management in Informal Settlements, Journal of Environment & Development, 2017, Vol. 26(1) 106–131

Carenzo, S. and M. Schmuckler (2018) Hacia una ontología política del diseño cartonero: reflexiones etnográficas a partir de la experiencia de la cooperativa Reciclando Sueños (La Matanza, Argentina). Inmaterial. Diseño, arte y sociedad, Vol. 3(5): 53-80.

Sobral Santos, M.L. & Gutberlet, J. (2018) Transformando relações entre sociedade e resíduos. Caderno Diálogos Socioambientais na Macrometrópole, nº1 (Dez.): 30-37. 

Gutberlet, J. & Uddin, S. M. N. (2018) Household waste and health risks affecting waste pickers and the environment in low- and middle-income countries. Int J of Occupational and Environmental Health

Uddin, S. M. N. & Gutberlet, J. (2018) Livelihoods and health status of informal recyclers in Mongolia. Resources, Conservation & Recycling 134: 1–9.

Gutberlet, J.; Carenzo, S.; Kain, J-H.; & de Azevedo, A. M. M. (2017) Waste Picker Organizations and Their Contribution to the Circular Economy: Two Case Studies from a Global South Perspective. Resources 6 (52): 1-12.

Carenzo, S. (2017) Invisibilized creativity: Sociogenesis of an “innovation” process developed by "cartoneros" for post-consumption waste recycling. International Journal on Engineering, Social Justice and Peace (IJESJP), 5(1-2), 30-49. 

Book chapters
Carenzo, S. 2017. “Fétichismes de la matière jetée: une économie morale de la gestion des déchets dans la région métropolitaine de Buenos Aires, Argentine”. In: Anstett, E. y N. Ortar (Eds). Jeux de pouvoir dans nos poubelles. Économies morales et politiques du recyclage au tournant du XXIe siècle. Paris: Ed. Petra. ISBN 978-284-743-172-8

Gutberlet, J. (2018). Waste in the City: Challenges and Opportunities for Urban Agglomerations, Urban Agglomeration, (Ed.), InTech, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.72047. 

- Kain, JH, Oloko, M, Zapata, P, Zapata, MJ (2017) Co-production of Waste Management Services in Informal Settlements. Swedish Research Center for Local Democracy. ICLD: Malmö. ISBN 978-91-86725-24-2 https://www.icld.se/projekt/kc-kain-j-oloko-m-zapata-p-zapata-m-2017-co-production-of-services-in-informal-settlements
- Inclusive Waste governance and Grassroots Innovations for Social, Environmental and Economic Change, Göteborg: University of Gothenburg & Victoria University ISBN 978-91-984547-3-4 http://www.wiego.org/reports/inclusive-waste-governance-and-grassroots-innovations-social-environmental-and-economic-chan

Conference papers
Acevedo, A. Carenzo, S., Goodluck, C., Gutberlet, J., Kain, J.H., Oloko, M., Pérez Reynosa, J., Zapata, P., Zapata Campos, M.J., ‘Waste picker organisations and grassroots innovation movements’, Development Research Conference, Gothenburg, Sweden, 22-23th August 2018.

Carenzo, S., Goodluck, C., Gutberlet, J., Kain, J.H., Oloko, M., Pérez Reynosa, J., Zapata, P., Zapata Campos, M.J. Recycling networks. ‘Grassroots resilience tackling climate, environmental and poverty challenges’, Latin American European Organisation Studies Conference, Buenos Aires, 22-24th March 2018.

Carenzo, S. 2018. The B side of social innovation. Grassroots technologies development and waste picker cooperatives in Greater Buenos Aires (Argentina), 7th Social & Technology Studies Italia Conference, Padova (Italy), June 14-16th.

Carenzo, S. 2018. Del “reciclador permitido” a una “economía circular desde abajo”: escenarios y desafíos. Seminario “Promoviendo la incorporación de los Recicladores de Base (RB) como Gestores de Residuos”, organizado por la Fundación “La Ciudad Posible”, Fundación “Tierra Viva” y el Movimiento Nacional de Recicladores de Base de Chile, Santiago de Chile, Jueves 2 de agosto 2018.

Gutberlet, J. & Carenzo, S. Waste pickers at the heart of the circular economy: a perspective from the Global South. SUM2018 Symposium on Urban Mining in Bergamo, Italy (21. – 24.05.2018)

Organized by the Recycling Networks and/or Waste Governance project:

II International Recycling Networks & Waste Governance Conference, 29th April – 5th May 2019, in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar in Tanzania

International Conference ‘Recycling Networks & Waste Governance’, Kisumu, Kenya 23th-28th April 2018

International Workshop “Innovación e Inclusión para una Economía Circular de los residuos”, Buenos Aires, October 12th 2018.

Workshop (Re)thinking Circular Economy “from below”, proposed and accepted to be included in the Academic Symposium Circular Economy Disruptions – Past, Present and Future, University of Exeter, UK - June 17 - 19th 2018. Coordinators: Sebastián Carenzo and Lucas Becerra - The Institute for Science and Technology Studies, National University of Quilmes (IESCT-UNQ), Argentina.

International Workshop “La linealidad del círculo: (re)pensando dinámicas tecno-cognitivas para el desarrollo inclusivo sustentable en la Economía Circular”, Buenos Aires, November 14th 2017.

Pérez-Reynosa, J. H. November 2019, Rio de Janeiro, “Recycling movements, resistance and the urban commons. Stories from the resilient community La Chureca”, paper presented in poster session at 22nd TWAS LACREP young scientist conference and 1st TYAN regional conference for Latin America and Caribbean region.

Pérez-Reynosa, J. H. October 2019, Managua, “Redes de reciclaje. La resiliencia de base abordando los desafíos del clima, el medio ambiente y la pobreza (Caso Managua, Nicaragua)”, research project presented at IV Congreso Nacional: La educación superior nicaraguense innovando y aprendiendo para el desarrollo sostenible.

Zapata Campos, M.J. 28 September 2018, Paris, "Infiltrating urban commoning practices in city policy-making, experiences from Managua and Göteborg”, paper presented at BISCOTE International Workshop" “Urban Commons and Territorial Development” http://www.urbanisme-puca.gouv.fr/projet-biscote-biens-communs-et-territoire-communs-a1491.html

Carenzo, S. 8-11 January 2019, Bonn, Germany.
“Grassroot innovations and waste management: developing a holistic perspective from the global South”, speech presented at the German Development Institute (Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik -DIE).

Carenzo, S. 15 September 2017, Lyon, France.
“L’économie circulaire des déchets”, paper presented at the Atelier “Deuxième vie des objets”, Institut des Sciences de l'Homme

Carenzo, S. 8 février 2017. Paris, France
“Défis pour une ethnographie collaborative dans des secteurs populaires: vendedores ambulantes [vendeurs ambulants] et recuperadores de residuos [ramasseurs de déchets] à Buenos Aires”, paper co-authored with M.I. Fernandez Alvarez, presented at Atelier d'ethnographie de la maison Archéologie & Ethnologie, René-Ginouvès, Université Paris Nanterrre, mercredi 8 février 2017.

Gutberlet, J. I Simpósio Internacional do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Enfermagem, VIII Encontro da Rede/Roda de Pesquisa-ação Participativa, Maringá, 7.12.2018. A universidade e o seu compromisso com transformações socioambientais face às mudanças climáticas: Avanços e desafios

Gutberlet, J. Taller Innovación e Inclusión para uma Economía Circular de los Resíduos. La Matanza, Provincia de Buenos Aires, 12.10.2018. Modelos de gobernanza de los residuos e inclusión social en el Sur global.

Gutberlet, J. III Simpósio do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Estudos de Cultura e Território, I Seminário Internacional do Programa de Pós-Graduação dm Estudos de Cultura e Território, Araguaína, Tocantins, 11.09.2018. Pesquisa-ação e participação universitária nas transformações socioambientais: Teoría e prática da experiência do trabalho com catadores de materiais recicláveis

Gutberlet, J. Desafíos metodológicos del hacer con cartoneros y recuperadores desde espacios universitarios, públicos y comunitarios. Workshop: Experiencias de Investigación acción con cartoneros en Brasil y Canadá. University of Buenos Aires, 5 de Julio 2017

Gutberlet, J. Grassroots social innovations changing narratives on waste: Research with waste pickers. LMU-University of München, Germany, 2.7.2018.

Gutberlet, J. Waste pickers challenging the current Circular Economy: A Global South perspective. LARG – UVic, 21.02.2018.

Gutberlet, J. Livelihoods and health status of waste pickers in Dhaka, Bangladesh. CAPI- Research Talks, UVic, 1.3.2018.

Gutberlet, J. Experiências de pesquisa-ação de resíduos sólidos em diferentes países e o potencial de participação universitária nas transformações socioambientais. Fundação Santo André, Brazil, 08.06.2017.

SUPERVISED THESIS (Bachelor, Master, PhD)
Victoria Rice and Johan Knape, School of Business, Economics & Law, master thesis in Innovation and Industrial Management Program, ‘Grassroots innovations in waste management, the case of ZanRec in Zanzibar’, December 2018 – May 2019. Supervised by Goodluck Charles and María José Zapata Campos

Dare Sholanke, Department of Geography, UVic. MA Thesis: Municipal solid waste governance in Vancouver and Montreal: specific focus on beverage container recycling. Supervised by Gutberlet, J. 2018

Maryellen Silva De Mesquita, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Políticas Públicas, Universidade Federal do Abc. MA Thesis: Política Nacional de Resíduos Sólidos, transições em regimes tecnológicos e a trajetória da Rede de Cooperativas de Catadores do Grande ABC (Coopcent ABC). Orientador: Adalberto Mantovani Martiniano de Azevedo; Committee member: Jutta Gutberlet, 15.12.2018.

Page Manager: Lise-Lotte Walter|Last update: 5/31/2017

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