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participants on the digital online conference
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Conference on waste gathered researchers from all over the world

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The conference Re-opening the bin was held online 10-12 June and gathered more than 100 researchers from all over the world. The aim was to bring together researchers from different disciplines within social sciences and humanities to present and discuss research on the many faces and dimensions of waste.

A variety of papers and research were presented both from global North and South cities on many different issues related to waste labour, exploitation, governance, and critical and innovative approaches to the circular economy from below. The three keynote speakers Hervé Corvellec, Zsuzsa Gille and Gay Hawkins added to the perspectives.

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portrait of Maria José Zapata Campos
Maria José Zapata Campos
Photo: Hillevi Nagel

Meet one of the organizers 

Maria José Zapata Campos, senior lecturer at the School of Business, Economics and Law is one of the organizers of  the Re-opening the bin conference.

Why a conference on waste?
“Because the Anthropocene,  rephrasing our keynote Hervé Corvellec, is the age of waste enabled by the normalization of waste in our everyday lives, our cities, and our societies. Research on waste from social sciences and humanities provides with a broad repertoire of approaches, methods, conceptual frameworks, and tools to de-normalize waste, and to revert the mechanisms that make waste practices less visible. By so doing we hope waste studies can contribute to pave the way towards an ecological transition beyond the Anthropocene. The social scientific and humanistic research on waste is growing, as the number of papers and participants to this conference indicates. However, there is still a need for spaces to facilitate these encounters, such as the Opening the Bin Conference 

We hope waste studies can contribute to pave the way towards an ecological transition

What did you learn from the conference?
“One thing is that the future of waste and discard studies should move towards the structural and institutional arrangements behind the intensive-wasting societies in which we live. Less focus on the individualization of environmental responsibilities, and more focus on for example transnational waste trade regimes contributing to the waste fractions that have a larger environmental footprint, for example mining, construction sector, industrial waste and fashion industry.Another learning is that despite facades of efficiency in waste management and recycling, it is not possible for industries, cities and other actors, to fully shift their environmental burden, to externalize the cost of systematic wasting somewhere else, as if there were an outside of the planetary boundaries. A third message I bring with me is to study waste not as an opportunity but as a provocation, as a performative process, as a materiality generating action."

You made a waste safari video, a voluntary activity included in the conference. What is a waste safari och what were your experiences from that? 
“Safari is a Swahili word that means journey.  As we finally ended up turning this meeting into a digital conference, we thought one way to travel virtually to the many of countries where researchers come from, was to engage participants into producing short videos inspired on waste. The waste safari was organized by Marta Ferri, from Lancaster University and John Chweya, an environmental activist and waste picker with whom we have collaborated in previous research projects in Kisumu, Kenya. The activity was very appreciated by the participants, and it ended with a prize to the best film. We have now created a repository with some of the videos and we hope they can be useful for the community for future teaching, etcetera. I personally had a great experience as I produced my first video on the Solidarity Fridge, a food sharing network in Gothenburg, and I won the second prize!”

Video (07:38)
The Solidarity Fridge. An Ecological Transition from Below

What will happen now?
”The next conference will be held in Lancaster University in 2023. We are now in the process of discussing the constitution of an association, the creation of a journal, and a series of workshops of seminars. This second Opening the Bin supported by the School of Business, Economics and Law has served to consolidate this emergent waste scholar community. We have also developed several social media channels that have served before, during and after the conference to promote interaction between participants.”

More films from the Waste safari film competition

Opening the bin on Facebook