Turning livelihoods to rubbish? Assessing the impacts of formalization and technologization of waste management on the urban poor

Duration: 11/15 – 10/18

Increasing environmental concerns and awareness of the financial benefits of waste have led to greater involvement of public and private actors in waste disposal. This has had implications for those urban poor who depend on it for their survival: as waste management is diverted through formal economies, many waste pickers have been left in even deeper poverty.

Turning Livelihoods to Rubbish? Assessing the Impacts of Formalization and Technologization of Waste Management on the Urban Poor is investigating the impact of changes in waste management in South African cities. Working with a variety of waste picker associations, private business, consultancies and research groups, it examines the mechanisms through which responsibilities for waste is shifting, including changes in governance, new distributions of economic costs and benefits, and the role of technology in enabling these practices.

Findings will be communicated through workshops and publications, as well as a mobile public storytelling exhibition to improve understanding about the situation of waste and waste pickers, who have long faced stigmatisation within wider society.

Project website Project Twitter

Henrik Ernstson – Twitter
Nate Millington – Twitter
Kathleen Stokes – Twitter

Erik Swyngedouw (Principal Investigator, Professor of Geography)
Henrik Ernstson (Researcher)
Mary Lawhon (Assistant Professor)
Kathleen Stokes (PhD student)
Nate Millington (Postdoctoral Researcher)

• Series of multi-stakeholder regional workshops to develop research and share findings.

• Dissemination of findings through a range of publications including policy briefing and pedagogic case studies, for use in African planning schools to meet need for new teaching materials.

• Engagement of wider society in experiences of waste pickers through innovative approaches including story telling, photography, media and a mobile exhibition

The political ecology of the waste economy in South Africa
17 May 2019