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Conference Papers Year : 2012

Urban solid waste in southern countries: from a blurred object to common pool resources


It has been too long that the question of the municipal solid waste management in developing cities has had the replication of Northern operating devices as the only valued answer. Countless failed projects and 'white elephants' have followed. Comprehending the solid waste handling in the South implies reconsidering the proper definition of garbage, through a social, economic and territorial lens. Where does the product end and where does trash begin? The answer to this question is far from being obvious. Garbage appears as a blurred object. Its nature is by no means immanent. It largely depends on local practices as well as on the existing management/recovery devices. This debatable issue is all the more relevant today, when urban solid waste management approaches in the developing world are being reformulated: dumping sites are banned, sanitary landfills are imposed, separate collection and recycling schemes are beginning to be implemented. Through our two case studies of one-million inhabitants from emerging countries - Coimbatore in India and Vitoria in Brazil - we show that the frontier between garbage and resource is fluctuating, if not untraceable. Appropriation conflicts arise. They do not only oppose (public or private) municipal service operators to actors from the informal sector (wastepickers, itinerant waste buyers, traders). Various huge industrial groups are also starting to target domestic recyclable waste as an alternative for raw materials, which costs are increasing ever more. Industrial ecology, livelihood issues and public service delivery unfold in urban areas. Our empirical elements lead us to refuse the dichotomy between trash and resource. We demonstrate that there exists an inextricable link between garbage landfilling and resource recovery/valorization. Our thesis is that the whole urban waste deposit should be seen as common pool resources, mobilizing E.Ostrom's concept in urban context in order to acquire a systemic understanding. This unseen approach happens to be particularly fecund in cities from emerging countries. Furthermore, it might well be a much more convenient analytical framework in order to tackle the solid waste issue in Southern countries, which represent the majority of today's urban world.
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Dates and versions

hal-00737461 , version 1 (03-10-2012)


  • HAL Id : hal-00737461 , version 1


Jérémie Cavé. Urban solid waste in southern countries: from a blurred object to common pool resources. WORLD ISWA CONGRESS 2012, Sep 2012, Florence, Italy. ⟨hal-00737461⟩
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