Title: Municipal waste management policy in Europe: how the treadmill of production undermines sustainability goals

Authors: Benjamin J. Vail

Addresses: Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Studies, Masaryk University, Jostova 10, Brno, Brno-stred 602 00, Czech Republic

Abstract: Though sustainability is the official goal of European Union waste management policy, the recent problem of illegal municipal waste shipment from Germany to the Czech Republic suggests that achieving a sustainable municipal waste management sector within a more broadly sustainable society is threatened by current and proposed policies. To understand the lessons of the Czech case for European waste policymaking, the treadmill of production theory is applied. This approach suggests that because there is a direct link between economic activity and waste generation, the successful implementation of waste-reduction strategies is hindered by powerful structural forces. The article explains the relevance of the Czech-German waste dispute, describes current waste policies, practices and principles, and analyses weaknesses in existing and proposed waste management rules. The article concludes that macro-level political economic forces contribute to the problem of illegal waste shipment, and that potential European Union waste policy reforms threaten to undermine sustainability principles in the future.

Keywords: Czech Republic; environmental sociology; municipal waste management; ToP; treadmill of production; waste transport; sustainability; sustainable development; illegal waste shipment; Europe; economic activity; waste generation; waste reduction; Germany.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSSOC.2009.027621

International Journal of Sustainable Society, 2009 Vol.1 No.3, pp.224 - 239

Published online: 04 Aug 2009 *

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