Change or rage? Discourse analysis on political struggles in the transition of Finnish municipal waste management

Olli Sahimaa, Hanna Salmenperä

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionProfessional


The Finnish Ministry of the Environment is preparing the reform the Finnish Waste Act (646/2011). The reform will implement the European Union Waste Package, which was published as a part of the Circular Economy Package in 2018. The new recycling targets of the Waste Package for municipal waste – 55% by 2025, 60% by 2030 and 65 % 2035 – are a radical shift for the operational environment of municipal waste management in Finland. The multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions is a prominent framework to understand these kinds of socio-technical transitions. It explains how transitions require not just policy interventions, but also technological innovations, changes in consumer practices, cultural meanings, infrastructures and business models. The multi-level perspective has by now remained a highly underutilized framework in the field of municipal waste management. The purpose of this paper is to study the role of political struggles in socio-technical transitions through the multi-level perspective. The specific research question is as follows: “What is the impact of political struggles for the development of recycling in the Finnish municipal waste regime?” To answer this question, we code and analyze the statements of different operators on the reform of the Finnish Waste Act in order to visualize the policy preferences of different actors in Finnish municipal waste management system. The coding and analysis cover the following three topics, all intertwined and relevant related to increasing municipal waste recycling: stricter sorting obligations, the waste collection system renewal and the reform of the producer responsibility system. The results are expected to shed light on the discourse coalitions and their arguments around Waste Act reform. We also expect to find new perspectives on the systemic lock-ins and their mutual dependencies in Finnish municipal waste management, caused by conflictual policy processes. The paper will contribute to understanding the hindering role of political struggles in sustainability transition pathways and thus provide potential leverage points for sustainability interventions in municipal waste management. Ultimately, the paper will be making way for applying sustainability transition theories more extensively in municipal waste management and identifying the role of vested interests as a potential threat for circular economy transition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication6th Network of Early Career Researchers in Sustainability Transitions Conference 2021
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2021
MoE publication typeD3 Professional conference proceedings
EventNetwork of Early Career Researchers in Sustainability Transitions Conference - Virtual, Online
Duration: 8 Apr 20219 Apr 2021
Conference number: 6


ConferenceNetwork of Early Career Researchers in Sustainability Transitions Conference
CityVirtual, Online


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