Promoting waste prevention in industry – search for policy instruments

Raimo Lilja

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


The research challenge was to assess the benefits and limitations of using the concept Material Efficiency (MEf) as a proxy for the concept of Waste Prevention (WPr) in the context of designing policy instruments to promote WPr actions in the industry. The materials and methods for the thesis included studies of the statistics of hazardous industrial waste, observations from several cases of policy design processes in Finland, stakeholder interviews, an empirical study of environmental permits and elements of discourse analysis and policy evaluation. The results of the thesis support the view that MEf discourse can be used to translate the WPr goal into practice, with some limitations. A typology of MEf categories was developed and used as a tool for assessing the present scope of regulating WPr and MEf in a sample of environmental permits for industry in Finland. The study verified that in practice the waste hierarchy is not applied in most of the permits. The Industrial Emission Directive gives permitting authorities the mandate to regulate many categories of MEf. MEf is an important aspect of best available technique. There are legal and pragmatic limits to regulating MEf through permits. MEf policy is more complex than traditional pollution abatement policy because the use and choice of materials is directed by powerful sector-specific practices and policies, whereas WPr is more purely an environmental concern. Maximizing MEf in one phase of the life cycle of a product may not be the optimal solution. The findings suggest that a negotiated agreement or "green deal" could be feasible in Finland for promoting certain elements of circular economy. The case studies illustrate that the framing of MEf affects the choice of policy instruments. The thesis concludes that WPr would be easier to promote if it were clearly distanced from waste policy. Both quantitative and qualitative WPr can be better promoted through the concept of MEf in the broader cleaner production or circular economy context as compared to the current linkage with waste management policy.
Translated title of the contributionJätteen määrän ja haitallisuuden ehkäisy teollisuudessa - ohjauskeinoja etsimässä
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Dahl, Olli, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6812-1
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6813-8
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • waste prevention
  • material efficiency
  • policy instruments
  • hazardous waste
  • negotiated environmental agreements
  • pollution prevention
  • cleaner production

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