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School of Business | Department of Management Studies | MSc Degree Programme in Creative Sustainability | 2016
Thesis number: 14360
Living off garbage: Waste picker institutions in Brazil through the lens of Elinor Ostrom's principles for governance of common-pool resources
|Author:||Rocha Perrupato-Stahl, Carla|
|Title:||Living off garbage: Waste picker institutions in Brazil through the lens of Elinor Ostrom's principles for governance of common-pool resources|
|Year:||2016 Language: eng|
|Department:||Department of Management Studies|
|Academic subject:||MSc Degree Programme in Creative Sustainability|
|Index terms:||kestävä kehitys; sustainable development; kiertotalous; circular economy; ympäristötalous; environmental economics; jätehuolto; waste disposals; kierrätys; recycling|
» hse_ethesis_14360.pdf size:10 MB (10333714)
|Key terms:||common-pool resources; design principles; waste; informal recycling sector; waste pickers; institutions; secondary raw materials|
In many cities of the developing world, an active informal waste sector, made up of millions of people, make a living from the recovery and recycling of resources found in waste. They are often the major suppliers of secondary materials to industry and in some places they achieve significant recycling rates. The living and working conditions of informal recyclers are, however, often extremely difficult. Also, informal recycling, notably of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), is characterized by highly pollutant processes, without compliance to environmental, safety and health standards. Calls have been made for the integration of informal sector recycling into mainstream waste management, for the millions of jobs it creates to the urban poor, the potential to improve working conditions and for the need to address unsound environmental practices. Integration requires a level of organizing and a common venue is the establishment of associations or cooperatives of waste pickers. Brazil is known for its initiatives of waste picker integration, and is home to over a thousand organizations of waste pickers, often characterized by the principles of self-management and collective decision-making.
In this thesis, waste picker institutions in Brazil are examined through the lens of common-pool resource (CPR) theory, and in particular, Elinor Ostrom's core design principles for the efficacy of groups (E.Ostrom, Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences 2009). It is set against the emerging background of waste as a resource, specifically waste as a common-pool resource. The research adopts a descriptive, multiple-case study approach, in which Ostrom's principles are applied to two institutions of waste pickers with the aims of verifying to which extent they characterize these institutions and if their presence (or absence) is related to their institutional performance. Multiple sources of data were used: primary data through field visits, observations and interviews, and secondary data from the body of literature.
Results suggest a strong relationship between the degree to which the principles are present at these institutions and the results they achieve in terms of income level, recycling rates and the mix of services they offer. In light of these findings, the design principles could be used by waste picker institutions to evaluate performance and to highlight modes of improvement. At a theoretical level, findings strengthen the case for generalization of the principles across groups outside the traditionally studied natural CPRs. This study contributes to the conceptualisation of waste as resource and, in particular, as a common-pool resource. As such, it is relevant to the understanding of the incentive structure underlying materials recovery from waste and to resource efficiency. It joins the growing body of research on the urban commons.
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