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Household plastic waste management in France: opportunities and barriers to niche innovations
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Ecology.
2011 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Due to their inherent properties including lightweight, versatility and low production costs, the production and use of plastic material is continually growing. Packaging is the primary application of plastic materials and plastic packaging represent a significant part of overall household waste generation. For several years, the reduction and avoidance of the negative impacts of waste on the environment and public health has been of major importance to the European Union environmental policies, with a long‐term vision to moving towards a recycling society. Yet, almost half of all postconsumer plastic packaging waste is still landfilled in France. Recently, a new national legislation has been implemented, with more strict recycling objectives, which should imply changes within the plastic waste management regime.

Several technologies for plastic waste recycling are available, which can be broadly categorized into mechanical recycling and chemical recycling. However, the implementation of these technologies is influenced by the technological trajectory of the national waste management regime. The purpose of this thesis is to lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms of the technological diffusion and transition processes within the regime, through the identification of the main factors impeding or driving the dispersion of these treatment techniques. The Multi-Level Perspective framework was used in order to address this question. This analyse includes a  description of the regime’s trends, tensions and characteristics, the identification and characterization of the main promising innovations and plastic recycling filières, the identification of the landscape key factors and the assessment of the development of the main niches at the regime level.

This analyse reveals that the main innovations barriers are: the institutional, economical and technological dimensions, which provide inertia to the regime through a network of actors relatively indisposed to major changes, allow economical viability of recycling processes and investments in this field, and the historically predominance of landfill and incineration options and (more recently) mechanical recycling technologies.

The main opportunities leading to potential windows of opportunities for innovation development are: the sustainability dimensions and security/affordability of the raw material supply concerns throughout the stakeholders, which have influenced a broad range of dimensions at the regime level, such as policy, cultural, financial and market dimensions. As the raw material supply price is increasing, recycling processes can become more commercially viable. The sustainability dimensions and the growing European harmonization over regulations have led to more strict national recycling objectives, which can provide windows of opportunities for radical recycling innovations.

The results of this thesis could be used as a basis for policy recommendations as it provides a broad picture of the plastic waste management, with the main mechanisms involved and factors that have stimulated the occurrence of technological transitions within the existing regime and barriers to their development. Policies can be adapted to exploit‘ windows of opportunities’ and relax barriers for the development of alternative filières highlighted in this work. However, the system seems to be‘ locked in’ at multiple dimensions, mainly institutional and technological. These locks in would limit the influence of the policy dimension on waste management and therefore make the management of technological transitions difficult to achieve.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2011. , 91 p.
Trita-IM, ISSN 1402-7615 ; 2011:35
Keyword [en]
Technological innovations, Sociotechnical regime, Plastic waste management, Diffusion of technologies, France
National Category
Environmental Management
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-107849OAI: diva2:578231
Subject / course
Industrial Ecology
Educational program
Master of Science - Sustainable Technology
Available from: 2013-03-26 Created: 2012-12-17 Last updated: 2013-03-26Bibliographically approved

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