Towards Waste Management in a Circular Economy: policy effects on waste flows in the municipality of Utrecht
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Current global resource extraction, consumption and disposal patterns are unsustainable. In recent years, the notion of a Circular Economy has gained increasing attention as a possible means to address this. The transition to a circular economy requires effective waste management. This thesis explores waste management policy in the municipality of Utrecht in order to determine to what extent municipal policies are contributing to the realization of waste management in the context of a circular economy. To this end, the manner in which municipal policy has been translated into interventions in the waste system of Utrecht has been studied for the period between 2015 and 2017. In addition, two material flow analyses of household waste in Utrecht were constructed for this period, and the changes in composition, mass and quality were analyzed in relation to the interventions. The main findings suggest that municipal policy has contributed to increasing waste separation and recycling rates, and reducing residual waste and incineration. With regards to waste separation and residual waste the municipality is on track to achieve its own stipulated targets. However, national targets are found to be out of reach with current policies. Furthermore, the quality of the collected waste has decreased, possibly due to perverse influence of national targets on waste management priorities. Finally, it is found that the current interventions address only a subset of the waste management strategies and apply only to a subset of the waste system. Recommendations are given for continued collaboration between Stadsbedrijven and the Copernicus institute in order to develop a decision support tool with which to plan, implement and evaluate interventions for waste management in a circular economy.