A critical study of the wastescape in the western province of Sri Lanka: pathways towards alternative approaches

Randika Anjalie Jayasinghe

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    In this thesis I critically analyse the waste management system (which I have termed “wastescape”) in the Western province of Sri Lanka and explore the experiences of informal waste workers who depend on waste for their daily survival. In addition, I consider one potential intervention to facilitate and strengthen their role or to ‘emancipate’ the workers to mitigate against particular forms of injustice. I argue that understanding the social injustices experienced by informal waste workers, and providing insights into the social, political, economic and cultural dynamics that operate within the wastescape is imperative. The challenge, however, is to develop alternative systems that resist the inequalities and demands of the wastescape. This could only be achieved by providing alternative examples of economic productivity and social relationships.

    In an attempt to make the invisible visible, to hear unheard voices and attempt to understand the autonomy of informal workers within the power dynamics of the wastescape, I use a number of critical theoretical lenses and a range of methodologies drawing from social science and education domains. Combining these with the technical problem-solving skills of engineering and practices of waste management enables a rich study of alternative systems and processes appropriate to the Sri Lankan context. The alternative intervention considered in this study draws from the not-for-profit organisation ‘Waste for Life’ (WFL) which aims to co-create local poverty reducing solutions to environmental problems. A feasibility study was conducted in the Western province of Sri Lanka over a three year period from 2011-2014, to explore the socio-technical-political context in which such participatory programs might be developed, together with their emancipatory potential.

    Merging critique and creation of alternatives is a model that could potentially be used to critically analyse any complex socio-technical system and to develop meaningful alternatives. This study, therefore, presents the development of a critical socio-technical methodology. The findings of the study demonstrate that there is potential to develop poverty-reducing approaches to recycling, based on the Waste for Life model in the Western province of Sri Lanka.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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