Reuse Commons - weaving generous cities

Felipe Schmidt Fonseca

Presentation of PhD research (Northumbria University / Mozilla Foundation) focused not on waste management but rather on waste prevention through collective practices of material reuse in cities and regions.

My research introduces the concept of generous cities as an alternative narrative refocusing the use of technologies and methods to address the excess of discarded materials in a time of global climate emergency and fragmented social bonds. Rather than increasing the speed of collecting discarded material to be sent out to recycling, incineration or landfilling, I propose to reflect on the potential value of said material and how to generate social and environmental benefits from it.

Generous cities would be ones in which material generosity is incentivised and rewarded. Instead of objective efficiency, I highlight the centrality of intentional care - even when performed anonymously - to promote sustainability, regenerate social bonds and enable economic inclusion for local agents. A good proportion of excess materials can generate value - and not only in the economic sense - when diverted from the waste stream and handled with skills and knowledge that are usually already present in cities.

To ensure that waste prevention is effectively developed within cities and regions, it must be incorporated into public policies. I describe some lessons from my experience with collaborative policy-making in the past. That context informs the path of my research on waste prevention and generous cities.