Environmental Justice and Waste Management : location of landfills and socioeconomic conditions in São Paulo (SP, Brazil)

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: Environmentally safe disposal of urban waste is a global concern that recently gained a new dimension through the lens of Environmental Justice, with a growing literature showing correlation between the placement of waste facilities and disadvantaged groups in society. This thesis seeks to verify whether landfills in the city of São Paulo are located in regions where socially and economically vulnerable groups live, in order to promote the inclusion of the concept of environmental justice in the solid waste management planning process. This thesis also questions the role that the presence of a landfill poses to the socioeconomic conditions of the surrounding population and the reasons behind why they live close to landfills. São Paulo (SP, Brazil) was chosen as the case study and the research strategy is based on a mixed methods approach: literature review, production /analysis of GIS maps and field visit. One community in the vicinity of CTL Leste landfill was studied in detail, in which field observations and application of semi-structured interviews were used as data collection strategy to gain insights from the case study area. The data from interviews were analysed statistically and through content analysis. The two maps created with ArcGIS software showed that most of the landfills of São Paulo are located mainly in areas occupied today by economically disadvantaged populations, regardless the period of urban occupation of the areas by the time of landfills implementation. The field visit confirmed social and environmental conditions of the residents and provided insights about the effect that the landfill has on these conditions. It is fair to say that the presence of a landfill itself is not the main cause of the precarious socioeconomic conditions of the surrounding inhabitants; instead, the city dynamics makes populations that are already socioeconomically vulnerable accept to live in the vicinity of landfill sites. It is confirmed a case of environmental injustice, in which an already more vulnerable population are being exposed to additional environmental risks. It is concluded that the concept of environmental justice may help the process of policy making and regulatory practices to better protect disadvantaged populations, in order to guarantee that the presence of a landfill does not further expose an already vulnerable population to an additional type of risk, environmental risk.

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