Tidal waters in Swedish waste management. Socio-political implications of the EU waste policy
Jolanda van Rooijen, PhD candidate
Uppsala University, Industrial Engineering & Management
Waste policy in Europe is primarily guided by a hierarchy in waste management based on the EU waste ladder, introduced by Mr. Lansink a former Member of Dutch Parliament in 1979, and has subsequently been used as the basis for all European Union (EU) member states. The hierarchy consist of 5 levels of which the 1st level, landfill which should be the least attractive way of disposing waste and should as much as possible be avoided, all the way to the 5th level, waste prevention.
Different EU member states have adopted the different levels to different degrees. Sweden has moved back from landfill in favor of waste-to-energy also called “Incineration with energy recovery”
Sweden has a somewhat ambivalent relationship towards the EU and many Swedes tend to be skeptical about both the Euro and seeing any direct advantage on decisions taken in Brussels. So EU policies are not automatically welcomed with open arms and some EU directives such as the adoption in local laws of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive can be delayed unnecessarily. Once incorporated in local law and local policies, Swedes are highly obeying to these set policies and laws.
There is a long period of courtship between the municipality leaders and potential companies willing to make large investments in incineration plants. Public tender is the formal way of acquiring the engagement yet these large projects are preceded by long periods of informal meetings on different levels. Once the decision is made for the investment of building an incineration plant, the period between decision and opening of the plant can be anything up to a few years.
Incineration plants are a long time commitment for a municipality or an urban region
Food to biofuel, foresty rest products to
The EU waste ladder should be a starting point for every nations, where the national vision would be to contiously consider going up one step and re evaluating the options about the nest step.
What you did that is innovative.
I looked closely at relationships on a broader level then the isolated view of one step of the Lansink waste ladder and merely how these levels are interrelated not as is common, from an emission, a CO2 or a taxation perspective but rather looking at the consequences and implications of the chosen steps taken toward a level or direction surrounded by the socio-political structure of Sweden.
At first glance it struck me that the easiness of politicians and media talking about waste prevention not giving a set definitions which means that depending on how the wind blows the content might differ and the non threatening, least provoking alternatives are displayed.
Sweden does not display a future national vision on waste management.
Even though the steps in the ladder are mentioned as a way forward, Sweden is awaiting the publication of a national waste management agenda, which hopefully will be a strategic direction for both industry and governing organization.