PhD Studentship - Informal Sector Recycling and Circular Economy in Global South: Complex Value Optimisation from Resource Recovery for Dry Recyclables

University of Leeds - Civil Engineering

Funded PhD project: Worldwide (International, UK and EU)

Value: Funding covers the cost of fees and provides a maintenance of £14,553 for the 2017/18 academic year. Funding duration is 3 years.

Number of awards: Funding for this award is not guaranteed. This research project is in competition for scholarship funding with other projects and will be awarded on a competitive basis.

Supervisors: Contact Dr Costas Velis to discuss this project further informally.

Project description

Leeds Civil Engineering Research Excellence Scholarship

Waste management is currently reshaped by ‘circular economy’, whereby used objects/ materials are ideally cycled through multiple uses in the optimum way to preserve their inherent value and minimise their environmental and social footprint. Recycling is a core activity preserving such value. In low- and middle-income countries, in the absence of formal industry, recycling is predominantly carried out by marginalised and vulnerable individuals: waste pickers, often referred to as the ‘informal recycling sector’ (IRS). Understanding of the functioning of IRS, and the wider benefits and impacts of their work on society and the environment is still developing, and there is need to consider them under the new lens of circular economy. The application of novel value-analysis methods to the IRS is currently limited. This is due to lack in suitable analytical frameworks and tools, and the absence of reliable data. This research gap limits the ability of the IRS to liaise with other systemic stakeholders, e.g. municipalities, and gain recognition of their hidden contribution to society and the environment.

This PhD study will explore how the IRS using their so called own ‘social technology’ contribute to the circular economy through recycling in low- and middle-income countries. For the very first time, it will concurrently quantify the value of this contribution in material, monetary, social, and environmental terms. This will be feasible by using two novel, existing methodologies and modelling techniques, recently developed at the University of Leeds (CVORR and SO-CO). To this, the system of dry recyclables (paper, plastics, Al) handled by the IRS (quantities, qualities and complex values of flows) will be assessed, using Brazil as a prominent case study. This will be one of the first in-depth applications of the methodologies, which were developed at the University of Leeds, and will provide an opportunity to fine-tune and validate them.

For more details about the project, entry requirements, and how to apply visit:

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e:, t: +44 (0)113 343 8000.

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Northern England