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Discourse coalitions in Swiss waste management: gridlock or winds of change?

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Duygan Mert, Stauffacher Michael, Meylan Grégoire,
Project Initiating Transitions of Swiss Municipal Solid Waste Management (InTraWaste)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Waste management (New York, N.Y.)
Volume (Issue) 72
Page(s) 25 - 44
Title of proceedings Waste management (New York, N.Y.)
DOI 10.1016/j.wasman.2017.11.006


As a complex socio-technical system, waste management is crucially important for the sustainable management of material and energy flows. Transition to better performing waste management systems requires not only determining what needs to be changed but also finding out how this change can be realized. Without understanding the political context, insights from decision support tools such as life cycle assessment (LCA) are likely to be lost in translation to decision and policy making. This study strives to provide a first insight into the political context and address the opportunities and barriers pertinent to initiating a change in Swiss waste management. For this purpose, the discourses around a major policy process are analysed to uncover the policy beliefs and preferences of actors. Discourse coalitions are delineated by referring to the Advocacy Coalition Framework (Sabatier, 1998) and using the Discourse Network Analysis (Leifeld and Haunss, 2012) method. The results display an incoherent regime (Fuenfschilling and Truffer, 2014) with divergent belief clusters on core issues in waste management. Yet, some actors holding different beliefs appear to have overlapping interests on secondary issues such as the treatment of biogenic waste or plastics. Although the current political context hinders a system-wide disruptive change, transitions can be initiated at local or regional scale by utilizing the shared interest across different discourse coalitions.