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Community Waste: grassroots innovations for sustainable waste systems and practices (SEYFANGG2U19SF)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, May 31, 2019
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

The challenge of managing and reducing domestic waste is a growing sustainability problem for governments and Local Authorities. Recycling rates are increasing, but this is not enough to address the environmental challenges faced by our throwaway material culture. This PhD will investigate the scope, impact and potential of community-based waste-reduction initiatives, to address this problem.

Examples include: food-sharing apps, community fridges, upcycling projects, free exchange networks, collaborative consumption, tool libraries, the sharing economy etc. These ‘grassroots innovations’ all aim to reduce waste through innovative social and technical arrangements, either by reducing material consumption and/or dealing with waste more creatively, to deliver lower-waste lifestyles. Community waste projects can potentially offer new radical solutions for more sustainable waste systems and practices.

The project will make a major contribution to understanding the potential of these grassroots innovations to contribute to a lower-waste future, and reconceptualising domestic waste activities so as to help design and implement more successful waste reduction and management schemes.

Specific research objectives may include: to define and map domestic waste systems and practices; to study the scope, scale and character of the UK community waste sector; to evaluate the impacts of community waste projects; to investigate the potential, and challenges faced by this sector; to help design and evaluate Local Authority-led initiatives to improve waste reduction and recycling.

The activities and research methods used will depend on the successful applicant’s expertise and interests, but this interdisciplinary project is likely to use both qualitative and quantitative techniques, and involve working with grassroots community groups, social enterprises, businesses and Local Authorities.

The project is situated in the 3S Research Group, and will draw on conceptual frameworks such as sociotechnical systems, social practice theory and grassroots innovations (Hargreaves et al, 2013; Seyfang, 2009; Seyfang and Smith, 2007; Evans, 2012; Shove et al, 2013).

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here:

Type of programme: PhD

project start date: October 2019

Mode of study: Full time

Entry requirements: Acceptable first degree - Geography, applied social science, planning, development studies, environmental social science, sociology, economic.

The standard minimum entry requirements is 2:1.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at View Website.

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


i) Hargreaves, T., Longhurst, N. and Seyfang, G. (2013) ‘Up, Down, Round and Round: Connecting Regimes and Practices in Innovation for Sustainability.’ Environment and Planning A 45(2) pp.402-420 DOI:10.1068/a45124
ii) Seyfang, G. (2009) The New Economics of Sustainable Consumption: Seeds of Change (Palgrave MacMillan, Basingstoke).
iii) Seyfang, G. and Smith, A. (2007) ‘Grassroots Innovations for Sustainable Development: towards a new research and policy agenda.’ Environmental Politics Vol 16(4) pp. 584-603 DOI:10.1080/09644010701419121
iv) Evans, D. 2012. ‘Beyond the Throwaway Society: Ordinary Domestic Practice and a Sociological Approach to Household Food Waste.’ Sociology, 46(1), pp.41-56.
v) Shove, E. et al., 2013. Interventions in practice: re-framing policy approaches to consumer behaviour, Sustainable Practices Research Group.

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