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Towards Sustainable Waste Management - Popular Summary Report from a Swedish EPA Research Programme
Number of Authors: 382014 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The purpose of the research program Towards Sustainable Waste Management has been to assemble, develop and evaluate ideas for policy instruments for a more sustainable waste management. The waste management should contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the society, for example through reduced waste quantities and increased recycling. It should be cost-efficient and also be accepted among the public as well as other important stakeholders. Our aim was also to develop tools and methods to evaluate such instruments. For example we have developed a package of computer models to analyse the quantities of waste that can arise in the future (EMEC), how these different quantities might be treated (NatWaste), and how this can affect the environment (SWEA). The models also provide information about the cost of waste management and how the Swedish economy in general can be affected by the policy instruments. This package of models, together with our other models and methods, give us a unique capability for the assessment of new policy instruments and the analysis of complex questions on waste quantities and waste treatment. Our assessments and conclusions have a broad scientific basis. We combined the three models above with other calculations and with qualitative analysis and discussions, based on research in ethnology, psychology, economics, etc. This means that we are also able to analyze issues of acceptance and discuss how information should be designed to be effective. People often like to contribute to a good environment, through source separation, etc. However, each individual has a clear limit regarding how much effort to spend. A positive attitude towards source separation does not reach far, when the sorting of a waste fraction is considered difficult. Hence, it must be easy to do the right thing. We found that people who are not satisfied with the waste-management system are uncertain over it rather than unhappy with it. Clear information can be of great benefit, if adapted to the situation and audience, and especially when combined with other policy instruments. Besides information, we assessed fifteen other policy instruments that aim for waste prevention and increased recycling of materials:

  • Raw materials tax
  • Tax on hazardous substances
  • Recycling certificates
  • Prohibition of distribution of advertising to households that have not expressly agreed to this
  • Reduced value added tax (VAT) on services
  • Negative labeling of products with hazardous substances
  • Requirements for companies to work on waste minimization
  • Improved surveillance by authorities
  • Weight-based waste-collection fee
  • Environmentally differentiated waste-collection fee
  • Consumer-friendly waste collection systems
  • Climate Tax on incineration of waste with fossil origin
  • Weight-based tax on incineration of waste
  • Green electricity certificates for waste incineration
  • Obligation to recycle recyclable materials

Of these, the obligation to recycle recyclables seems to provide the greatest environmental benefit. A weight-based waste fee also results in increased source separation and recycling. Raw material taxes and recycling certificates aim at stimulating or requiring a demand for recycled materials. The introduction of such instruments in a single country like Sweden has a small effect on the total recycling of the materials, partly because the supply of recycled material is insensitive to changes in the market. Reducing VAT on services helps to shift consumption away from goods to services. This reduces the quantity of waste per consumed Euro. The quantity of paper waste in the households is reduced if the distribution of advertising is prohibited to households that have not expressly agreed to this. The waste quantity can also be reduced through demanding waste-minimization plans or similar in companies and through improved surveillance of the companies by authorities. We expect each of these instruments to affect the waste quantity with a few percent or less, but together they can still have a significant effect. Some instruments are complementary and therefore good to combine. It is, for example, a good idea to combine the weight-based waste-collection fee with consumer-friendly collection and information, because this reduces the risk that households dispose of their waste illegally. Information can be a powerful tool if it is combined with other instruments, but isolated it is difficult to get it effective. In Towards Sustainable Waste Management we evaluated one or two versions of each instrument. Our studies in addition gave ideas for new versions of some of the investigated instruments and also ideas for completely new instruments. A substantial tax on the use of materials could, for example, lead to increased material efficiency in industry. Support to repairing services could extend the life of certain products and thus reduce the waste quantity. Allowing temporary landfill or storage of plastic waste that cannot be recycled could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Well established tools like deposit systems and the landfill tax could be expanded to include more products and waste fractions. Further research or investigations are needed both on these new ideas about the instruments we have studied, to determine whether – and if so, how – they are inserted into practice. Among the instruments in place today, and also among the possible policy instruments that we have studied, there are a few that greatly affect the treatment of waste. Examples include landfill bans, the extended producer responsibility, and the obligation to recycle recyclables. However, it is more difficult to find instruments that drastically can reduce the waste quantity. This quantity seems to be decided mainly by the economic and technological development in the society, and by consumption patterns and the lifestyle of the citizens. To find policy instruments that can greatly reduce the quantity of waste we need further innovation in this area. The results from the research program have been published in more reports, scientific articles, etc., many of them in English. Visit our website www.sustainablewaste.info for a full list of publications.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Naturvårdsverket , 2014.
Series
Rapport ; C69
National Category
Energy Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-28277OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-28277DiVA, id: diva2:1255144
Projects
Towards sustainable waste management
Funder
Swedish Environmental Protection AgencyAvailable from: 2018-10-11 Created: 2018-10-11 Last updated: 2018-10-31Bibliographically approved

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Eriksson, Ola

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