Who owns urban waste? Appropriation conflicts in emerging countries

From Waste Management & Research

Managing solid waste in developing cities is not an easy task and many public policies have failed to bring the expected results. It is argued in this paper that comprehending the solid waste handling in the South implies reconsidering the proper definition of waste. Although the level of expertise has definitely improved, particularly in Northern countries, since the 1970s, the solid waste management (SWM) sector remains quite neglected. Such an observation particularly applies to Southern countries, where priority has long been given to the ‘brown agenda’. Through two case-studies of one-million inhabitant cities from emerging countries, it is shown that if appropriation conflicts arise that is because the urban solid waste deposit in Southern countries can be defined as an impure public good. This article is a brand new contribution to the debate over solid waste management “modernization” in developing countries that shows the extent to which informal devices are embedded into global industrial economy.

Abstract

Managing solid waste in developing cities is not an easy task and many public policies have failed to bring the expected results. It is here argued that comprehending the solid waste handling in the South implies reconsidering the proper definition of waste. Where does the product end and where does rubbish begin? The answer to this question is far from being obvious. Solid waste appears as a blurred concept. Such a thorny issue is all the more relevant today, as municipal solid waste management approaches in the developing world are being reformulated: dumping sites are banned, sanitary landfills are imposed, and separate collection is being introduced. The current sector transformations are here analysed through a novel theoretical analysis combined with an original qualitative and quantitative empirical work. Through two case-studies of one-million inhabitant cities from emerging countries, it is shown that if appropriation conflicts arise that is because the urban solid waste deposit in Southern countries can be defined as an impure public good. This issue does not only involve private service operators and informal wastepickers; several other actors covet the urban solid waste deposit’s cream, that is, recyclable items. In emerging countries, huge industrial groups are starting to target domestic recyclable waste as an alternative for raw materials, which costs are increasing ever more.

 

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Article details
Jérémie Cavé
Who owns urban waste? Appropriation conflicts in emerging countries Waste Manag Res September 2014 32: 813-821, first published on July 18, 2014 doi:10.1177/0734242X14540978

 

 

 

 

     
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