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  Buildings, Waste Networks, and the Circular Economy (Advert Reference: RDF22-R/EE/GES/FORMAN)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Peter Forman  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Excessive waste is one of the key challenges of the Anthropocene and is inextricably linked to contemporary forms of Capitalism. To Capitalist economies, waste features as both anathema and existential requirement. For new products and markets to be developed, surpluses, redundancies, and externalities must be produced. Simultaneously, resultant waste products represent a failure of economies to efficiently capitalise upon the latent value embedded within these materials.

Waste (whether comprising of energy, food, water, time, discarded products or other resources) has a wide range of damaging ecological effects that are often unevenly experienced. With global waste production anticipated to increase by over 70% between 2016 and 2050 (World Bank, 2016), these effects (which may include issues related to pollution, toxicity, and climate impacts), are set to become more widely and intensely experienced than ever before.

Governing flows of waste, extracting value from them and limiting their harmful effects, has consequently become a pressing imperative in the 21st century, and is now the focus of a sizable body of academic research (c.f. Gregson and Forman, 2021; Balayannis, 2020). It is also inherently geographical: waste is defined differently dependent upon the spaces, cultures, and times in which it is produced; it involves different spaces and scales in its creation, transport, and processing; and it expresses itself through a wide range of geographically distributed effects.


This project will build upon and contribute to geographical waste debates, generating new knowledge on a currently under-studied area of waste governance: the positioning of buildings and construction projects within global networks through which waste is differently defined, produced, valued, recommodified, and (re)consumed. Indeed, buildings are the source of both opportunities and challenges for waste governance. On the one hand, they hold potential for storing or reutilising waste through innovative construction materials. On the other, they are contributors to diverse ecological challenges resulting from the production of building waste, much of which comprises of bulky, difficult to dispose of materials that can be carbon-costly, toxic, obdurate, or otherwise potentially hazardous.

This project will involve the creation of new empirical data through which the role of buildings in global networks of waste production, and the ways in which these buildings present opportunities and challenges for waste governance, will be explored. Particular attention will be paid to the positioning of buildings within circular economy narratives, including how different spaces and scales are imagined and invoked in relation to buildings and building waste, and the political questions that these positionings raise.

The Principal Supervisor for this project is Dr. Peter Forman.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see 

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF22-R/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 22 June 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Funding Notes:

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £16,602 per year) and full tuition fees. Only UK candidates may apply.

Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,961 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or

• have settled status, or

• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or

• have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

Anthropology (2) Biological Sciences (4) Environmental Sciences (13) Geography (17)


Gregson, N. & Forman, P.J. (2021) "England's Municipal Waste Regime: Challenges and Prospects" The Geographical Journal
Forman, P.J. (2021) "Materialist Dialogues and the Granular" Dialogues in Human Geography
Tironi, M., Hird, M., Forman, P.J., Simonetti, C., & Freiburger, N. (2018) “Inorganic becomings: Situating the Anthropocene in Puchuncaví” Environmental Humanities
Forman, P.J. (2018) “Circulations beyond Nodes: (In)Securities Along the Pipeline” Mobilities

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 About the Project