Sustaining São Paulo through waste collection

What role do graphic images play in the livelihood of waste collectors?

Collaboration between Loughborough University and University of São Paulo explored the central role graphic images play in the work of waste collectors in São Paulo. Research examined the idea of waste as a symbolic resource. The project culminated in a photo-documentation of the site of COOPAMARE (the Cooperative of Autonomous Paper, Cardboard, Scraps and Reusable Materials Collectors), located under a viaduct in the Pinheiros district of the city. From this base, co-operative workers provide a valuable service to São Paulo.


COOPAMARE as defined visually by its graphic objects. From the painted fish on the road that that symbolises the role of the church in establishing the co-operative, to the vests its workers wear to identify themselves as proud participants in city life. (Photography: Robert Harland)


Events and activities

Panel session for “Trajectory of waste management in Europe – the needs of users and market barriers” at the International meeting on solid waste and its impact in socio-environmental contexts: European experiences in waste management, University of São Paulo, 12 June 2012


Research Forum · WASTE-D (Water, Arts, Science, Technology, Environment, and Design), Loughborough University, 26 February 2015 (Organiser: Dr Robert Harland)

Speakers: Dr Ed Brown National Co-Coordinator, UK Low Carbon Energy for Development Network, Loughborough University · Katarina Dimitrijevic, MPhil/PhD research student, Goldsmiths University of London · Dr Mark Evans, Reader in Industrial Design, Loughborough Design School · Cay Green, PhD Candidate, Loughborough Design School · Dr Robert Harland, Lecturer, School of Arts, English and Drama, Loughborough University · Nick Slater, Director of Arts, Loughborough University Arts · Ian Smout, Principal Programme Manager, Civil and Building Engineering/Water Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC), Loughborough University · Dr Gillian Whiteley, Senior Lecturer, Director of Visual and Material Research, Leader of Politicized Practice Research Group, Co-organiser RadicalAesthetics-RadicalArt (RaRa), School of Arts, English and Drama, Loughborough University · Prof Stuart Walker, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Lancaster University.


Invited lecture · “Four As in archive: access, artefact, activism, affect.” Archives, art, and activism: Exploring Critical Heritage Approaches to Global Societal Challenges, Symposium, University College London, 3–5 September 2015, by Robert Harland

Invited lecture · Graphic design as urban design. University of São Paulo Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, 5 November 2014, by Robert Harland.

Invited lecture · Transdiscplinarity in design, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, University of São Paulo, 17 September 2010, by Robert Harland.

Seminar and workshop · Fifty years in five: São Paulo cannot stop. Sustainability research, Loughborough University, 29 March 2012. See event details below. (Organisers: Dr Robert Harland and Dr Ed Brown)


Event details: Fifty years in five: São Paulo cannot stop seminar and workshop.


Funding support

This ongoing research benefited in part from funding received through a Santander Travel Award (2010); from EPSRC Additional Sponsorship Funds/Bridging the Gaps, for the project Stimulating Collaborative Approaches to Developing Sustainable Megacities through the Complexity of Urban Design Challenges: A Case Study on São Paulo with PI Dr Ed Brown (Sustainability Research School, Loughborough University) (2012), and with financial support from Prof John Downey (Communication and Culture Research Beacon, Loughborough University) to visit São Paulo (2014).


Bridging the Gaps project team

Left to right

Prof. Dr. Mario Thadeu Leme de Barros
Chair of Department of Hydraulics and Environmental Engineering
University of São Paulo

Prof. Dr. Sylmara Gonçalves Dias
Critical management studies, School of Arts, Science and Humanities (EACH)
University of São Paulo

Dr Ed Brown
Associate Director, Sustainability Research School
Senior Lecturer, School of Social, Political and Geographical Sciences
Loughborough University

Prof. Dr. Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santos
Chair of Design, School of Architecture and Urbanism (FAU)
University of São Paulo

Ian Smout
Principal Programme Manager, WEDC
Loughborough University

Dr Robert Harland
Lecturer, School of the Arts, English and Drama
Loughborough University


Prof Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santos, Dr Robert Harland and Prof John Downey visit COOPAMARE, São Paulo to meet with co-operative leader, Eduardo. November 2014


Read about the research

Book chapter

Harland, R.G., & Loschiavo dos Santos, M.C.L. (2014) Working with waste to dignify human existence through collage as spontaneous design. In Loschiavo dos Santos, M. C., Walker, S., Lopes Francelino Gonçalves Dias, S., Design, Waste and Dignity. São Paulo: Editora Olhares. ISBN: 978-85-62114-35-9, https://hdl.handle.net/2134/16655.


Case study

A case study about COOPAMARE features in Graphic design in urban environments

Harland, R.G. (2016) Graphic design in urban environments. London: Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1-4725-9775-5. (Monograph)


Peer reviewed conference papers

Harland, R.G., Loschiavo dos Santos, M.C.L., & Whiteley, G. (2015) Dreaming sustainability, realising utopia: ‘convergence’ and ‘divergence’ in art and design practice. Unmaking Waste: Transforming Production and Consumption in Time and Place, Adelaide, 22–24 May, https://figshare.com/articles/conference_contribution/Dreaming_sustainability_realising_utopia_convergence_and_divergence_in_art_and_design_practice/9332594/1

Harland, R.G. & Loschiavo dos Santos, M.C.L. (2014) Space-and-place modelling-and-making:a dialogue between design and geography. In Lim, Y., Niedderer, K., Redström, J., Stolterman, E. and Valtonen, A. (eds.). Design’s Big Debates – DRS International Conference 2014, Umeå, 16–19 June, https://dl.designresearchsociety.org/drs-conference-papers/drs2014/researchpapers/47

Harland, R.G. & Loschiavo dos Santos, M.C.L. (2013) Sustaining São Paulo: uniting different academic perspectives through Design. Consilience and Innovation in Design – 5th International Congress of International Association of Societies of Design Research: Consilience and Innovation in Design, Tokyo, 26–30 August, https://hdl.handle.net/2134/12838

Harland, R.G., Loschiavo dos Santos, M.C.L., & Leme de Barros, M.T. (2011) Developing urban design discourse beyond the critical point: the case of São Paulo. Diversity and Unity – 4th International Congress of International Association of Societies of Design Research, Delft, 31 October – 4 November, https://hdl.handle.net/2134/9397

Harland, R.G. & Loschiavo dos Santos, M.C.L. (2010) Design education as a practice of affiliation: facilitating dialogue between developed and developing nations. In Durling, D., Bousbaci, R., Chen, L, Gauthier, P., Poldma, T., Roworth-Stokes, S. & Stolterman, E. (Eds.), Design and Complexity – DRS International Conference 2010, Montreal, 7–9 July, https://dl.designresearchsociety.org/drs-conference-papers/drs2010/researchpapers/54

Harland, R.G. & Loschiavo dos Santos, M.C.L. (2009) From greed to need: Notes on human-centred design. Interrogations: Creative Interdisciplinarity in Art and Design Research, Loughborough, 1–2 July, https://repository.lboro.ac.uk/articles/conference_contribution/From_greed_to_need_notes_on_human-centred_design/9333506

Harland, R.G. & Loschiavo dos Santos, M.C.L. (2008) The ephemeral aesthetic of spontaneous design on the streets of Sao Paulo. In Durling, D., Rust, C., Chen, L., Ashton, P. & Friedman, K. (Eds.), Undisciplined! – DRS International Conference 2008, Sheffield, 16–19 July, https://dl.designresearchsociety.org/drs-conference-papers/drs2008/researchpapers/94

Peer reviewed conference abstract

Harland, R.G., Brown, E. D., Cloke, J.M.P., & Loschiavo dos Santos, M.C.L. (2012) How do you do? Universities, Trans-disciplinary Research and Sustainable Urbanism. 2nd International Conference on Geographies of Education, Loughborough University, 10–11 September


Project team

Loughborough University : Dr Robert Harland. University of São Paulo : Prof Maria Cecilia Loschiavo dos Santos.