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How can conflicts, complexities and uncertainties in a circular economy be handled?: A cross European study of the institutional conditions for sewage sludge and bottom ash utilization
KTH, Skolan för arkitektur och samhällsbyggnad (ABE), Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik, Strategiska hållbarhetsstudier.ORCID-id: 0000-0002-3137-1571
2018 (Engelska)Rapport (Övrig (populärvetenskap, debatt, mm))
Abstract [en]

The circulation of waste, where waste is given a new chance as a resource, can potentially replace the environmentally harmful extraction of virgin resources from the Earth crust. But at the same time, waste often contains higher levels of contamination than the corresponding material from the bedrock. Increased use of waste brings thus benefits at the global level, for example by reducing mining and carbon dioxide emissions, but at the same time, the disadvantages of increased levels of contamination affects primary locally.

This conflict has been exemplified in this study by looking closely at two different waste residues: bottom ash and sewage sludge, which contain both resources and hazards. In Sweden, the utilization of these residues is limited. In central Europe, on the other hand, several countries demonstrate a high utilization of waste.

The purpose of this study is to map the institutional conditions in Europe that may facilitate the use of waste, without increasing the risk. How can waste in terms of both its resources and hazards be handled in the best way? First, the challenges facing the use of bottom ash and sewage sludge are identified in Sweden. After that, the challenges are brought to Central Europe to see how they have handled the challenges in achieving a higher use of waste. Finally, the lessons learned from Europe are brought back to Sweden to discuss how the use of waste can increase through different political trajectories. The study is based on interviews with three different actors: waste producers, waste recipients and the authorities, mainly in three different countries: Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

CHALLANGES

  • Trust in the regulation is missing. All stakeholders express that current policy for using waste in Sweden is insufficient. The policy for using bottom ashes are too strict, and for the use of sewage sludge too liberal.
  • Uncertainty about future policies. There are uncertainties about how future polices for bottom ashes and sewage sludge will be reformulated. Therefore, actors await costly investments.
  • Lack of institutional capacity. The capacity to handle resources is low, as municipalities apply the policies differently.
  • Unbalanced resources policy. Waste-based materials face much tougher requirements than conventional materials from the Earth's crust.
  • Lack of interest from the customer. Potential customers see few reasons to use waste-based material instead of conventional virgin material.
  • Available alternatives. There are other waste-based alternatives more interesting to customers than sewage sludge and bottom ash.

 

FAVORABLE INSTITUIONAL CONDITIONS  

  • Liberal guidelines. Liberal requirements for using waste may potentially increase its use, since a larger proportion of the generated waste will fall within the regulatory requirements.
  • Strict guidelines. Strict requirements can potentially lead to increased use of waste, as reliability in the quality of the waste may increase among costumers.
  • Differentiated guidelines. The use of waste can potentially increase with a flexible regulatory framework with requirements depending on the risk and level of pollution.
  • Political will and objectives. An outspoken political vision can create the necessary predictability for involved actors to meet, invest in learning and technology.
  • Neutral and coherent resource policy. A neutral resource policy that does not differ geographically and geologically creates better market conditions for waste.
  • Cooperation between government and business. Cooperation between government and business can increase the use of waste, if the authorities support the market, while business invest in learning and technology.
  • Acceptance and customer interest. Economically favorable conditions and technical qualifications can increase costumers’ acceptance and interest in waste. 

 

POLICY TRAJECTORIES

How can trust in the regulation increase?

-         Hazards in relation to masses or resources. The limit values of contaminations for using waste can either be expressed according to masses (mg/kg) or according to resources (mg/ kg P).

-         Leaching concentrations or total concentrations. The limit values of contamination can either be measured in terms of leaching concentrations and/or total concentrations.

-         Differentiated conditions based on the material or context. Differentiated requirements for waste can be based on the context of the use and/or on the properties of the waste.

-         Limit values based on the risk or the waste. The limit values can be constructed based on either a risk assessment or the characteristics of the waste.

 

How can the security increase for future policies?

-         Bottom-up or top-down formulated policies. Policies for using waste can either be formulated between involved actors or formulated top down by authorities.

-         End of pipe or preventive solutions. Solutions to increase the use of waste are typically either end of pipe, directing pollution away, or preventive, focusing on avoiding the generation of pollution at the source.

-         Incremental changes or social transitions. The relationship of the solutions to the existing system can either be incremental or require a radical transformation of the system.

-         Requirements according to capacity or risk. The requirements for using waste may be the same for all stakeholders (based on risk), or based on the capacity for investment.

 

How can the institutional capacity for waste as a resource increase?

-         Centralized or decentralized authority. Criteria for using waste can either be decentralized where each region sets their own criteria or be centralized, where the same rules apply across the country.

-         Differentiated or similar policies for primary and secondary resources. The requirements for primary and secondary resources can be shared or different.

-         Institutional fragmentation or coherence. The responsibility of primary and secondary resources are typically divided between two different ministries (industry and environment), but can be shared under the same institutional structure.

-         Resource or waste oriented organizations. There could be tradeoffs between cleaning the flows as effective as possible and acquire residues of good quality.

-         National or multilateral policy. Waste polices are normally a national issue, but waste is traded in the international market. Waste polices in one country might thus affect the situation in another country.

 

How can costumers’ willingness increase?

-         Financial compensation or investment. Compensation is often required for costumers to accept waste, but the money could also be invested upstream in preventive work, to increase the quality.

-         Direct or indirect political governance. The authorities normally interfere in the waste market by enforcing rules, but might also become an active part on the waste market as a costumer or through public procurement.

-         Waste as a hot topic or asleep. Despite the same scientific understanding, the use of waste seems in some region to be politically debated while in other regions the debate is missing, which could affect the acceptance of using waste.

 

How can access to alternatives be handled?

-         A material or social challenge. The transition to circular economy can be driven by uncertain resource availability or be a political decision.

-         Alternatives: primary material or secondary material. Primary material with a high environmental impact can be substituted with either another primary material or by secondary material.

-         Same or different requirements for secondary material. The requirements for using waste based resources can either be the same, like for waste used in constructions, or differ like between sewage sludge, manure and digestate.

Ort, förlag, år, upplaga, sidor
Stockhlom: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2018. , s. 50
Nyckelord [en]
Circular economy; Policy; Conflicts; Risk; Uncertainties; Waste
Nationell ämneskategori
Studier av offentlig förvaltning Naturresursteknik
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-235369OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-235369DiVA, id: diva2:1250611
Forskningsfinansiär
Mistra - Stiftelsen för miljöstrategisk forskning, 2017-27
Anmärkning

QC 20180926

Tillgänglig från: 2018-09-24 Skapad: 2018-09-24 Senast uppdaterad: 2018-11-23Bibliografiskt granskad

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