The URBAN-WASTE consortium is proud to share one of its latest publications which differs from any other the project released lately as it presents a rather rare and unique one on gender mainstreaming in waste management. The project’s Gender Auditor, Susan Buckingham, made sure the project would meet the Horizon 2020 requirements and together with other contributors now put forward a comprehensive and above all precious reading material for urban planners and policy makers focusing on waste management.
As a Horizon 2020 Eco-Innovation Strategies Project, Urban Waste has pioneered embedding gender throughout its design, structure, implementation and evaluation. This paper reviews the experience of gender mainstreaming waste minimisation in eleven case study tourist areas across Europe. Bearing in mind the male-dominated nature of waste management, and the limitations of gender mainstreaming noted in the critical literature which we review, we conclude that organisational and attitudinal changes towards gender equality during the project were achieved through attentive awareness raising and training, suggesting that the fundamental changes needed to achieve gender equality require intensive engagement. This engagement has produced a number of recommendations which the project summarises under the categories of communication, staffing, consultation and public participation, equipment and strategic change. As the gender auditor, Susan Buckingham explains “We further argue that, given the apparent correspondence between engagement with gender equality and improvements in waste minimisation (measured by gross CO2eq reductions), such intensive engagement is worthwhile substantively, to ensure gender equality within waste management, and instrumentally, to achieve improvements in waste minimisation”.
The URBAN-WASTE project was designed to develop ‘eco-innovative and gender sensitive waste prevention and management strategies in cities characterized by high levels of tourism’. The specific challenges of tourist cities are the particularly sensitive natural and/or cultural heritage which attracts visitors in the first place; the seasonality of tourism which puts high pressure on municipal services at specific, but limited times of the year; and the transitory nature of tourists who are momentarily disconnected from their customary waste management and consumption habits.
Uniquely for waste management projects, and environmental projects more widely, addressing gender in waste prevention and management was a specific objective; the other two were to ‘foster and structure a participatory framework for policy-making in waste management’ and ‘apply and integrate an urban metabolic approach for urban waste management’. As a consequence, gender considerations have played a significant part throughout the project, from the original proposal, through the organisational and training aspects of the project and how all elements of the project incorporated gender dimensions, to the final, gender-sensitive assessments.
This comprehensive paper, written by one of the leading experts in gender studies, especially applied to environment, reflects on waste management in the EU, as well as gender mainstreaming in the EU and compares it and extends it onto the URBAN-WASTE project. An entire chapter is dedicated to the gender maisntreaming and gender proofing of the eco-innovative strategies that were being developed by the 11 pilot cities and regions and how to replicate this approach by other parties.
Horizon2020 is the first EU research funding programme to comprehensively require projects to address gender equality and sensitivity, and URBAN-WASTE was commended at the outset for its approach to integrating gender. However, the EU’s own gender equality approach is not without criticism, as the paper explores, and the process of ensuring gender remains central to the project has not been unproblematic. Mindful of both these factors, this paper identifies how gender has been incorporated at each stage of the process, and then assesses how effective has this been, and what, if any, lessons can be learned. One of the key criticisms of ‘gender mainstreaming’ research proposals and projects is that this can too easily become a ‘tick-box’ exercise serving to meet key criteria of the funding on paper, but often failing to secure any change at all, let alone long term change. The conclusions of the project, such as can be drawn at this stage when the actions are so recently completed, are a reflection of the diversity of responses from different pilot cities. Lessons can be learned from these responses ranging from good practice to cautions. They signal both the potential of gender mainstreaming in organisations where there is pre-existing enthusiasm or enthusiasm to be/become committed, but also the obstacles that exist, and can be created, by teams and organisations which do not recognise gender inequality or its importance.