Article

Conditions and concepts for interdisciplinary urban metabolism research–the case of an inter-project collaboration on biowaste

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Abstract

La nécessité d’approches interdisciplinaires dans l’analyse du métabolisme urbain a été soulignée maintes fois, et les difficultés que rencontre la recherche interdisciplinaire sur le métabolisme urbain ne résident pas dans le manque de volonté des chercheurs. Nous soutenons que le problème central réside dans les détails pratiques, organisationnels et parfois banaux du travail entre équipes de recherche, départements et temporalités. Dans cet article, nous proposons une description fine d’une collaboration interdisciplinaire qui s’est produite dans la pratique : un effort conjoint pour développer et évaluer des scénarios de transition concernant le métabolisme des biodéchets dans la ville-région de Bruxelles. Cette collaboration entre projets a impliqué quatre équipes de recherche différentes issues de trois facultés et de deux universités, chacune possédant un ensemble spécifique de compétences et d’intérêts. Le métabolisme des biodéchets et la recirculation des nutriments est un thème récurrent dans la littérature sur le métabolisme urbain. Notre travail fait donc écho à des études antérieures sur le métabolisme urbain et à des problèmes d’épuisement de la fertilité des sols et de différentes formes de pollution. Le papier décrit le point de départ de chaque projet de recherche afin de permettre aux lecteurs de disciplines différentes d’appréhender la distance qui les séparait avant qu’ils aient décidé de travailler ensemble sur le métabolisme des biodéchets urbains. De plus, nous présentons des moments de convergence qui ont permis de rapprocher ces processus de recherche. Enfin, nous proposons une réflexion critique, revenant à la fois sur les facteurs favorables et les limites de la collaboration entre projets sur le métabolisme des biodéchets à Bruxelles.

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... Fostering cross-fertilization of different intellectual traditions is indeed, first of all, an epistemological question rather than a question of method. The difficulties of integrating disciplines in urban metabolism research reside not only in insufficient scientific engagements, but also in the nitty-gritty and mundane practicalities of working across research groups, the limited time frame and scope of research projects, the lack of meta-studies making inter-and transdisciplinary urban metabolism research available to scholars and practitioners and, in general, the absence of links between knowledge production and action (see for instance Athanassiadis et al., 2019). ...
Thesis
This thesis explores and discusses the issue of urban waste through the lens of urban metabolism. Although research on waste largely focuses on the technical aspects of waste treatment and management, current demands for a “sustainable” and “circular” transition call for a broadening of the scope of analysis exploring new integrative approaches. In the same way, urban metabolism research is widely interpreted in its most technical sense, as the analysis of energy and material flowing into, within, and out of cities, even though scholars are now calling for more interdisciplinary engagements to better understand the connections between these flows and their underpinning sociotechnical systems. This thesis aims to test the capacity of the “metabolic lens” to build insights into the complexity of contemporary waste management and recycling, combining the more technical and socio-political stances of urban metabolism research. To do so, it gathers three research projects that build on different epistemological angles and research methods dealing with the issue of biowaste, focusing in particular on (i) decentralised treatment technologies, (ii) waste management scales, and (iii) waste recycling practices. Analyses are based on extensive literature review (for technologies) and empirics collected in the case of the city-region of Brussels (for scales and practices). If the results of these works aim to potentially support decision and policy-making processes in the current sustainable and circular transition, for the purposes of this thesis, they serve to stage a conclusive reflection on the contribution of the metabolic lens and the way to steer more integrative engagements in urban metabolism research. Retrieved from: https://difusion.ulb.ac.be/vufind/Record/ULB-DIPOT:oai:dipot.ulb.ac.be:2013/293531/Holdings
... These values can be used, for example, as targets or benchmarks against which progress towards better P-management and a more circular food system can be measured. Realistic and implementable scenarios for the organic waste system in Brussels have been generated within the Opération Phosphore project and can be found in (Bortolotti et al., 2019(Bortolotti et al., , 2018bDe Muynck et al., 2019). ...
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... Ce prolongement est par ailleurs acté dans le PGRD, lequel prévoit dans sa mesure Fil 1 de rédiger, en s'appuyant sur l'opération Phosphore notamment, la stratégie de valorisation des biodéchets à Bruxelles en distinguant la place à donner aux systèmes centralisés et décentralisés. De manière plus opérationnelle, un groupe de travail thématique « biodéchets » sera constitué dès le mois d'avril 2020 pour coordonner la mise en oeuvre de l'ensemble des mesures abordant de 20 Authors (in alphabetical order) Athanassiadis, A., Bortolotti, A., Kampelmann, S., De Muynck, S.,Papangelou, A. Zeller, V. (2019). "Conditions and concepts for interdisciplinary urban metabolism research-the case of an inter-project collaboration on biowaste in Brussels". ...
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