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Integrating, Securing and Formalizing a (In)Formal System of Solid Waste Management by Means of Research by Design

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: de Neuville, Géraldine; De Visscher, Jean-Philippe
Conference: In Defense of the Commons: Challenges, Innovation and Action, the Seventeenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons
Location: Lima, Peru
Conf. Date: July 1-5
Date: 2019
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/10603
Sector: Social Organization
Region: North America
Subject(s): waste management
Abstract: "Through the study of informal practices of waste management, this paper highlights the importance of recognizing informal practices and integrating the 'research by design' as a tool in the process of formalization of those practices as 'commons'. The first part exposes the issues of solid waste management in Mexico City and explains the key role played by an informal community of waste pickers. The second part focuses on the societal and environmental impacts of the community regarding new land expulsion threats. Based on the diagnosis of this study, the third part explores and compares the spatial implementations of three distinctive scenarios based respectively on a public, private and commons management model. To conclude, the study highlights the potential benefits of the 'research by design' when securing and formalizing informal practices as 'commons'. The rapid and massive urban growth in Mexico City has considerably widened the gap between the supply of services and the demand for infrastructures such as waste management, particularly in the informal settlement areas. As a result, informal waste pickers have filled the gap left by the government to provide residents with better solid waste management. In the municipality of Nezahualcóyotl, an open-air garbage area has become a place to work and a place of living, self-managed by the local community. By collecting, sorting and reselling waste, the informal community secures their livelihood, reduces the quantity of garbage and consolidates the waste infrastructure overlooked by the authorities. Nevertheless, land pressure for the development of new projects, the growing awareness for ecological waste treatment and the modernization of the recycling sector in Mexico are putting the whole system in danger. The ability of the informal community to adapt their work to new circumstances and to face turbulent changes is poor. Referring to the above facts, the study outlines three alternative scenarios. The first alternative follows land trends, the second one gives preferential for public-private partnership and the last one integrates the informal community and public stakeholders within a more common approach. A comparative analysis identifies the third scenario as the most valuable to improve solid waste management and to secure the socio-economic environment of the waste-pickers community. Ultimately, the design investigation provides concrete illustration on how to put the "commons" scenario into action, using small-scale projects strategically implemented within the municipality area of Nezahualcóyotl. The study concludes by pointing out the necessity to develop a closer collaboration between informal communities of wastepickers, residents and the municipality. Within this process, the ‘research by design’ is considered as a useful tool of mediation. Furthermore, through the comparison of alternative scenarios and the exploration of their spatial implementation, ‘research by design’ provides concrete, objective and prospective basis for the development of commons governance."

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