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What is PSWM?

The Story of Participatory Sustainable Waste Management

Participatory Sustainable Waste Management

Welcome to the Participatory Sustainable Waste Management (PSWM) website, a knowledge-hub for innovative projects dedicated to more sustainable lifestyles suited to the needs and wants of current and future generations. PSWM presents a viable option to make better use of the world’s resources. This website has grown from its original purpose as an illustration of the benefits of the PSWM project in Brazil. As PSWM initiatives become more important in contemporary society, so too the number of projects proliferates. This website presents information on particpatory projects that have evolved from partnerships between the University of Victoria’s Community-Based Research Lab, other research institutes, and communities.

Participatory waste management means:

  • Putting the community in control of their urban environment, and strengthening their resources to improve it.
  • Improved waste management in the hands of strengthened co-operative enterprises.
  • Involving people in the decisions and policies that affects their lives.
  • Directing research efforts towards the people.
  • Improved environmental knowledge, more responsible consumption, and reduced waste.

Why do we need participatory sustainable waste management?

Consumption-oriented lifestyles and wasteful, unsustainable packaging practices transferred continuously from rich to poor countries are responsible for the generation of widespread municipal waste problems. Within today’s burgeoning cities, this undesirable waste often ends up in the hands of the least powerful communities. But what should these communities do with this waste?

Participatory sustainable waste management (PSWM) presents one option available for dealing with safe and non-contaminating waste; in this case, solid recyclable waste, which can be used as a rich resource for income-generation. By collecting recyclable material, communities are able to boost their personal incomes while also contributing to a more healthy and sustainable local environment. As a response to poverty and the increasing value of recyclables, the number of people involved in such ‘waste picking’ is growing in many cities across the globe, particularly in large metropolitan areas such as São Paulo and Vancouver.

The purpose of PSWM is to help expand participatory processes and to improve the organization of recyclers. This will be done through capacity building, strengthening organizational structures, increasing awareness, adding value to recyclables by increasing the effectiveness and the safety during the collection, separation, stocking and collective sale of recyclables. In the long term, PSWM aims to improve the urban environment in this area through participatory waste management.

PSWM projects help structure, organize and strengthen cooperatives, associations and community groups involved in recycling, by training, generation of knowledge and exchange of experiences on cooperativism, micro-credit and the practice of solidary economy. PSWM helps to increase responsible consumption and to reduce the generation of waste.

What does Participatory Sustainable Waste Management mean?

Participatory waste management puts people in control of their urban environment. People need to make their own choices about how to develop a sustainable way of living that suits their needs. To achieve this, the PSWM project focuses on the following aspects.

Putting people and their knowledge first

The project involves local people in urban planning by connecting them with formal, public sector decision-making processes. It is the local community that knows the local environment; it is their knowledge that will help build sustainable waste management. Through the project, marginalized people are influencing the authorities about waste management choices and are contributing to local waste management through collective waste collection. This ensures that the waste collection techniques and strategies are suited to their environment, needs and preferences.

Involving people

Policy-makers need to be aware of the impact that their decisions have on marginalized and resource-poor communities. Waste management policies have a powerful affect on communities. With the involvement of the community, it is possible to ensure that policies take into account the local environment. By empowering communities through collective commercialization and helping to voice the collective concerns of the community, the project facilitates inclusive waste management policy.

Helping people

By putting people and their knowledge first, and by involving them in policy decisions, the local communities gain control over their environment. The only way of ensuring that the community benefits from waste management, rather than suffer from the detrimental environmental affects of poor management, is to provide opportunities for them to participate in waste management itself. This includes the practical side of waste collection as well as influencing policy. The citizens need a say in how their community is managed; the PSWM project helps them develop opportunities to have their say.

Download the PSWM booklet (4.1 mb) – Click here!

People Involved

Jutta Gutberlet

Canadian director, Directing Committee

Jutta Gutberlet

Jutta Gutberlet is the Canadian director of the project. She did her undergraduate studies in Biology at the State University of São Paulo (UNESP) and her Ph.D. in Geography at the University of Tübingen, Germany. Then she worked for the United Nations (Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome and in Ecuador) and for a non-governmental research institute (CEDEC) in São Paulo. She has worked for the University of Tübingen/Germany and the University of Newcastle/Australia. Currently, she is Associate Professor at the Department of Geography, at the University of Victoria. Her current research interests are on sustainable livelihoods and community development with a specific focus on participation, co-management and poverty reduction strategies. She is involved in research on inclusive waste management and participatory natural resource management as well. She teaches in the fields of Social and Development Geography, and is director of the community-based research laboratory. For more information, please visit her website here.

Nídia Pontuschka

Directing Committee

Nídia Pontuschka

Nídia graduated with a geography degree from Universidade de São Paulo in 1962, obtained her master’s in Geography from Universidade de São Paulo in 1978, and her Ph.d. in Education from Universidade de São Paulo in 1994. Nídia has experience in education, acting on the following subjects: environmental education, environmental studies, education in geography, and the interdisciplinary nature of geography.

Ângela Martins Baeder

Ângela Martins Baeder

Ângela Martins Baeder is a Biologist with a graduate studies in Biology and Education (MA) and teaches in Environmental Studies. Currently she is enrolled in the PhD program at the Faculty of Education at the University of São Paulo, USP.

Fabio Luiz Cardozo

Fabio Luiz Cardozo

Fabio Luiz Cardozo is the founder and coordinator of Forum Recicla São Paulo, a social movement created in 2000 that agglomerates more than 30 recycling cooperatives and associations, as well as some members from NGOs and universities. Its mandate is to strengthen the informal and organized recycling movement in Sao Paulo.

Maria Ruth Freitas Takahashi

Maria Ruth Freitas Takahashi

Maria Ruth Freitas Takahashi is a member of Rede Mulher De Educação, an NGO that works on gender oriented issues throughout Brazil. Ruth has long term experiences on social development issues in poor communities.

Ana Maria Marins

Ana Maria Marins

Ana Maria Marins is the Field Coordinator for the project. She is a Biologist and completed her graduate studies at the Universidade Católica de Santos (Unisantos). She also has a Diploma in Environmental Management. Now Ana works as an independent professional with NGOs and the government.

Solange Dias de Araujo

Solange Dias de Araujo

Solange Dias de Araujo is the project administrative manager. She completed her undergraduate studies in Biology at FSA.

Bruno Jayme

Bruno Jayme

Bruno is currently working towards his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies (Education and Cultural Geography) where he combine arts-based methodologies and socio-cultural theories to trouble discrimination suffered by recyclers. Bruno will, collaboratively with recyclers, create and monitor a mobile art exhibit to explore whether art facilitates dialogue between the recyclers, the public, and São Paulo policymakers. Specifically, by working with recyclers to create art pieces made from recyclable material, his objectives are to: (a) monitor individual and community empowerment as an outcome of art creation and mobile art exhibitions; (b) evaluate the effectiveness of art in alleviating discrimination experienced by recyclers; and, (c) determine whether art can be used as a communication tool to enhance participation in agenda-setting process. His research will respond to the following: Can art decrease discrimination experienced by recyclers, and contribute to, or enhance, their participation in setting the public agenda?

Crystal Tremblay

Crystal Tremblay

Crystal Tremblay completed her PhD in the Department of Geography from the University of Victoria in 2013. Crystal has been working with the PSWM project since 2005 in various capacities. Her contributions include video productions (including ‘Beyond Gramacho’ and ‘Participatory Video Practitioner’s Toolkit’ co-produced in 2010), co-editing the projects newsletters and helping to facilitate capacity-building activities in Brazil and Canada. Her PhD research focused on the use of Participatory Video as a tool for public policy and empowerment for recycling cooperatives participating in the PSWM project.

Clécio Varjão

Clécio Varjão

Clécio Machado Varjão did his undergraduate studies in Information Systems at Fundação Santo André, Brazil. He is currently enrolled in the Masters Program in Computer Science. He is funded through the PSWM project to develop a collective commercialization web system for the organized recycling groups (co-ops and associations) involved in the project in Brazil. Clécio is also working for the community-based research laboratory, where he provides computer related tasks and contributes to the Global Waste Database project.

Megan King

Megan King

Megan joined the CBRL as an undergraduate in the work-study program, in 2008 when she contributed, through data collection and entry, to the Global Waste Database. She is now a second year graduate student, working towards her MA in Geography with a PSWM research project. Funded by the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada/International Development Research Centre’s Canada-Latin America and Caribbean Research Exchange Grant, Megan is currently completing her fieldwork in Ribeirão Pires, São Paulo, Brazil, which began in November 2010. She works with the recyclers of the Cooperpires recycling cooperative, using a variety of research methods including participant observation, interviews, and questionnaires, and a life-cycle assessment. The data will inform a case study of cooperative recycling and examine its contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This study will also enquire into the possibility for recycling cooperatives to engage in carbon credit market. Click here to see Megan’s CAG poster!

Eric Binion

Eric Binion

Eric Binion has completed his field work in Buenos Aires, Argentina. There he researched the self-reported health, injuries, and risks of informal recycling. He currently assists in the knowledge mobilization aspect of the project.

Frances Ankenman

Frances Ankenman

Frances Ankenman joined the CBRL in September 2011 through the work-study program. She contributes to the PSWM project as a qualitative research assistant, focusing on knowledge mobilization. She is currently a third-year BA student at UVic, majoring in Geography with a concentration in Resource Management and minoring in Human Dimensions of Climate Change. Frances is interested in exploring solid waste as a resource and as a tool to benefit communities and the environment. She hopes to pursue research analyzing links between climate change and resource management.

Sarah Marshall

Sarah Marshall

Sarah joined the CBRL through the work-study program in September 2011. She is currently working towards her BA in Geography with a minor in Environmental Studies. Her contributions to the PSWM project have been primarily through knowledge mobilization. Sarah was excited to join the CBRL as she is interested in community-oriented and participatory research as tools to help empower communities.

Megan Cronkite

Megan Cronkite

Megan Cronkite joined the CBRL team in 2012 as a research assistant contributing to the knowledge mobilization aspect of the PSWM project. She is currently working towards her BA in Geography, with a concentration in Environmental Sustainability, and a diploma in Social Justice. She is interested in exploring and deconstructing the interrelations of capitalism and colonialism in constructing our current social, cultural, political, and economic systems and the forms of resistance found within these structures.

Participating Recycling Co-operatives

  • Associação Pacto Ambiental – Diadema
  • Cooperlimpa – Diadema
  • Cooperma – Mauá
  • Cooperpires – Ribeirão Pires
  • Coopcicla – Santo André
  • Associação Refazendo – São Bernardo de Campo
  • Raio de Luz – São Bernardo de Campo
  • Sempre Verde – São Paulo/Zona Sul
  • Coopercral – São Paulo/Zona Sul
  • Coopercose – São Paulo/Zona Oeste
  • Fênix – Ágape – São Paulo/Zona Leste

Participating Local Governments

  • Consórcio Inter-Municipal do ABC
  • Prefeitura Municipal de Ribeirão Pires
  • Prefeitura Municipal de Diadema
  • Prefeitura Municipal de Mauá
  • Prefeitura de Santo André

Other Collaborators

  • Araci Musolino, Instituto GEA
  • Sergio Marques, Grupo Sta. Luzia
  • FUNDACENTRO

… among others.

Contact Us

Canadian Counterpart: University of Victoria, Department of Geography

Director: Jutta Gutberlet

University of Victoria
Department of Geography
PO BOX 3050 STN CSC
Victoria, B.C.
V8W 3P5
Phone: 00 1 250 472-4537
Fax: 001 250 721-6216
Email: gutber@uvic.ca

Brazilian Counterpart: Universidade de São Paulo, Faculdade de Educação

Director: Sonia Penin Co-ordinator: Professor Nídia N. Pontuschka

Universidade de São Paulo
Faculdade de Educação
Av. da Universidade, 308, Butantã
05508-900 – Sao Paulo, SP – Brasil
phone: 5511 38183099 Ramal: 254
fax: 5511 38183160
Webpage