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Sociology: People


Fraser Stewart

Fraser Stewart
Fraser Stewart
Edinburgh UK EH1 1LZ
Research Interests
Environmental Sociology, Sustainability, Consumption

I am now Research Fellow in Science, Technology & Innovation Studies. To link to my staff profile page click HERE.

Thesis Title:

Scotland's Rubbish: Domestic Recycling, Practice and Policy in Everyday Life


Prof. Steve Yearley and Dr. Michael Rosie

Thesis overview:

How can we best explain household recycling practices in 21st Century Scotland?

Environmental issues seem to be everywhere these days with politicians, the media and even ordinary people, appearing to be talking about climate change, bio-diversity and care for the environment. But to what extent does this increasing wider awareness match the realities of everyday life? Some commentators have suggested that legislative and policy driven change might be little more than rhetoric, whereas others assert that it is only with strong leadership that the general public will be equipped with the right information, resources and knowledge to be able to make changes to their own daily behaviours that can have a positive impact on restructuring the relationship between society and nature. It is at this juncture where debates around waste and recycling occur, which in Scotland have arguably been felt particularly acutely, being branded ‘the dirty man of Europe’, as municipal solid waste generation continues to rise and household recycling rates appear stagnant.

In this context, Scottish policy actors, stakeholders and decision-makers have been calling for further action to reduce the amount of municipal and commercial waste being produced in Scotland. Some argue for innovation and imaginative approaches be developed that can reduce the amount of waste generated, increase recycling activity and encourage re-use behaviours, as the nation strives towards the government's goal of becoming a 'Zero Waste Society'. What is less obvious however, is how deeply embedded structural trends and social patterns that lead to unsustainable waste generation can be overcome. This PhD research project responds to this by answering critical questions related to what ordinary household members think about the waste they generate and the recycling policies & targets design to relieve the burden. Central to the thesis is an exploration of the social, economic and political influences on household participation in waste minimisation and recycling activities, which for many are still not a part of the everyday routine.

Methodologically the project draws on a mixed methods design, using both quantitative and qualitative data to examine more closely how people engage with their natural and social environments, negotiate their resource use and participate in the mundane routines of everyday life. The first part of the research is quantitative and involves the secondary analysis of the Scottish Household Survey, the second is qualitative and involves placing recycling diaries in different Scottish households, which will be followed up by in-depth family/household group interviews.

More information on the project can be found by visiting the Recycling in Scotland page. 

Research interests:

My main research interests reside in and around environmental sociology, with a particular interest in sustainability and consumption. Other research areas I have a keen interest in include: social communication and discourse; governance and accountability; and the social significance of the mundane practices of everyday life. I am also interested in research methodologies that seek to combine approaches and techniques to explore innovatively the macro and micro social processes impacting the lived experience of people in every day situations. 

Educational background:

PhD in Sociology, University of Edinburgh (October 2011)

MRes in Social Research, University of Strathclyde (November 2007)

BA (Hons) in Social Sciences, First-Class Honours, Napier University (July 2006)

Funding / Awards / Prizes:

ESRC +3 Award (2007 – 2010)

ESRC Advanced Quantitative Methods Stipend (2007 – 2010)

University Medal, Napier University (July 2006)

Publications and Reviews: 

Stewart, F. and Patterson, E. (2010) Caring in Scotland: Analysis of Existing Data Sources on Unpaid Carers in Scotland. Scottish Government Social Research (Health and Community Care), Web Publication. Edinburgh. ISBN 978 0 7559 9493-9

Stewart, F. (2010) Review of: The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology (Second Edition) by Michael R Redclift and Graham Woodgate (eds.). Edward Elgar. In Network. Issue 106. Winter 2010 

Stewart, F. (2010) Review of: Environment and Society: Sustainability, Policy and the Citizen by Stewart Barr (2008) Aldershot, Ashgate. In Society & Natural Resources. Vol. 23, No. 11.

Stewart, F. (2009) Review of: The geographies of garbage governance: interventions, interactions and outcomes by Anna R. Davies (2008). Aldershot, Ashgate. In 'Book Reviews', Environmental Politics. Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 141-162 

Conference Papers:

Stewart, F. (2011) Weaving Webs of Knowledge: Mixed Methods and the
Sociology of Everyday Life
. British Sociological Association 60th Anniversary Annual Conference. April 2011, London, UK.

Stewart, F. (2010) Scotland's Rubbish: Sustainability & Values in (Post)-Industrial Society. RC24 International Symposium of Environmental Sociology & Sustainable Development at the XVII International Sociological Association World Congress of Sociology. Gothenburg, Sweden.

Stewart, F. (2010) Understanding Scotland's Rubbish: The Case for Methodological Innovation? British Sociological Association Annual Conference 2010, Glasgow, UK.

Stewart, F. (2010) Social Practices in (Post)-Industrial Society: The Case of Household Waste and Its Disposal. New Directions in Sociological Research. The University of Edinburgh, UK.

Stewart, F. (2009) Closing the Loop: Exploring the Sociological Aspects of Waste & Recycling in Industrial Society. New Directions in Sociological Research. The University of Edinburgh, UK.

Stewart, F. (2008) Researching the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of Ecological Modernisation Theory. New Directions in Sociological Research. The University of Edinburgh, UK.


  • Lecturer (p/t): Understanding Social Science Research (Edinburgh Napier University) (2010-2011)
  • Honours Undergraduate Tutor: Doing Survey Research (2008-2011)
  • Undergraduate Tutor: Social & Political Enquiry 2 (2008-2010)
  • Undergraduate Tutor: Scotland - Society & Politics (2009-2010)
  • Postgraduate Demonstrator: Transkills (2008)

Professional memberships:

British Sociological Association

International Sociological Association & RC24 (Environment & Society)