Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG)
Halifax, May 30-June 4, 2016
Organizers: John-Michael Davis (Memorial University) and Alexander Zahara (Memorial University) 

This session invites papers exploring ethical considerations of transboundary waste movement. Over the last decade, geographers of waste have demonstrated how discards move across various ecological, legal, and cultural boundaries: recycling and ‘Zero Waste’ initiatives move waste across national and provincial borders (MacBride 2011); plastics circulate transnationally through ocean gyres (Liboiron 2015); and emissions from incinerators climb their way through arctic food webs (Downie and Fenge 2003). Among other things, geographical studies have noted how the movement of waste matters, both politically and materially – waste and the consequences of waste are differentially understood and experienced (Gray-Cosgrove et al. 2015). Moreover, the varied stakeholders involved in managing wastes (e.g. industry, government, public and activist groups) often operate within competing ethical parameters, where the difference between right and wrong might involve balancing municipal budgets, tending to industry profit margins, or protecting environment and human health.

In this session, we welcome empirical case studies that critically analyze spatial patterns and local experiences of waste, as well as more conceptual papers that theorize and challenge contemporary understandings of ethics in waste movement. Submissions may address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

• Differences between and competition within formal and informal sectors of waste trade
• Material geographies of waste (e.g. e-waste, food waste, marine plastics, corpses, feces, volatile contaminants, etc.)
• Borders and waste, including: physical, ecological, political, or imagined borders
• Waste management systems and the ‘right to pollute’
• Transboundary legislation and waste
• Ethics and methodologies in examining transboundary waste movement (participatory action research, activist methods, ethnography, decolonization, etc.)
• Non-human geographies and waste
• The role of geographers in addressing environmental and social justice

If interested, please send abstracts of no more than 200 words to John-Michael Davis at and Alex Zahara at by March 20th.


Downie, D. L. & Fenge, T. (2003). Northern Lights Against POPs: Combatting Toxic Threats in the Arctic. McGill-Queens University Press.
Gray-Cosgrove, C., Liboiron, M. & Lepawsky, J. (2015). The challenges of temporarilty to depollution and remediation. S.A.P.I.E.N.S [Online]. 8:
Liboiron, M. (2015). Redefining pollution and action: The matter of plastics. Journal of Material Culture Online first: doi:10.1177/1359183515622966
MacBride S (2011) Recycling Reconsidered: The Present Failure and Future Promise of Environmental Action in the United States. MIT Press.