Recycling from the margins

Sep 6th, 2013

Geography Department

Michelle Porter
Recycling from the margins

When Geography PhD student Michelle Porter (then Folklore MA student) first moved to St. John’s, she was fascinated by the men pushing rusty grocery carts who came to her door asking for  bottles and cans. So, with funding from the Harris Centre - MMSB Waste Management Applied Research Fund, she decided to find out more about St. John’s informal recycling networks. Unique to St. John’s informal recycling networks, Porter says, is the relatively positive interpretation of informal workers who, in other place contexts experience barriers to their work as a result of being seen as ‘out of place’. The results of that research will be published in a an upcoming volume of Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability. The article is titled: Marginal Recycling: Place and Informal Recycling in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The abstract to the paper is below.


Informal recycling networks are systems through which impoverished populations earn money and residents recycle waste which might otherwise go into a landfill. These networks, in which people voluntarily self-organize to collect recyclables, occur  throughout the world. This paper discusses results of an exploratory, qualitative study of one such network in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador which identifies motivational characteristics of the network and their implications for public policy. Through close attention to particularities of place, the research identified community interaction and community inclusion as two of the most active motivating factors within the studied network. The findings suggest public recycling programs can increase public participation through greater attention to place-based motivational factors. Such participation could contribute to increased sustainability and reach of recycling programs.




Department of Geography

230 Elizabeth Ave, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1B 3X9

Postal Address: P.O. Box 4200, St. John's, NL, CANADA, A1C 5S7

Tel: (709) 864-8000