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The application of life cycle thinking in the context of European waste policy
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9869-9707
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Ecology.
2012 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, Vol. 29-30, 199-207 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

As the impetus of life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle thinking (LCT) in waste management policy is increasing, decision makers may face conflicting advice on the potential environmental impacts of competing end-of-life treatment options. This paper discusses the problem posed by the Waste Framework Directive, 2008/98/EC, where LCT is required to justify the departure of waste streams from the waste hierarchy. This paper places LCA of waste management systems in the context of applying 'normal' science to 'post-normal' problems. The current application of La in waste policy is reviewed in order to determine the epistemic basis to such applications. Furthermore, several cases are reviewed where controversy has surrounded the a priori purpose of applying LCT; the justification of a clear-cut solution to environmental problems. We show how the excess of objectivity, the social construction of knowledge and the playing out of actors' games may limit the ability of LCT to offer an authoritative justification for the derogation of waste streams from the waste hierarchy. However, one of the major benefits of LCT lies in its ability to change actors problem perception. Hence, the application of LCT may be better suited to both the identification of areas of environmental impact and the positioning of waste management solutions further up the waste policy agenda.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 29-30, 199-207 p.
Keyword [en]
Waste management, Policy, Decision making, Life cycle thinking, Life cycle assessment, Waste hierarchy
National Category
Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-95484DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.01.030ISI: 000303305600021ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84859557364OAI: diva2:528785
QC 20120528Available from: 2012-05-28 Created: 2012-05-28 Last updated: 2012-11-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Life Cycle Thinking and Waste Policy: Between Science and Society
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Life Cycle Thinking and Waste Policy: Between Science and Society
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study investigates the application of life cycle thinking (LCT) and life cycle assessment (LCA) in the field of waste management from perspectives based in the social sciences. LCT is explored through the theoretical construct of regimes, drawing theoretical resources from a combination of the ‘pragmatic turn’, the economics of conventions and transition theory.This work is based on eight papers treating theoretical arguments, qualitative and quantitative analysis, case studies and semi-structured interview data. LCT is placed in the context of contemporary societies. LCA is seen as an instrument of quantification and evaluation used by actors which have both similar and disparate objectives, and who offer justifications for its use through arguments embedded in conflicting pluralities of worth. Furthermore, this work analyses LCA as a tool for the qualification of the waste hierarchy; a waste management principle articulating a convention based on closed material cycles. This study argues that the technological trajectory of waste management regimes has been significantly influenced, inter alia, by actors’ institutional articulation of the waste hierarchy at national and territorial levels. It discusses the legitimacy of LCA, and the quantitative application of LCT, as an intermediary object used to qualify the waste hierarchy. Furthermore, LCT is placed in a prospective context which may be used to assist in the transition toward sustainable waste management.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2012. xiii, 131 p.
Trita-IM, ISSN 1402-7615 ; 2012:30
Life cycle thinking; life cycle assessment; waste policy; waste hierarchy; coordination; conventions; legitimacy
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-105781 (URN)978-91-7501-555-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-12-17, F3, Lindstedtsvägen, 26, KTH, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)

QC 20121127

Available from: 2012-11-27 Created: 2012-11-26 Last updated: 2012-11-27Bibliographically approved

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