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Reducing household waste: A social practice perspective on Swedish household waste prevention
Malmö University, Faculty of Culture and Society (KS), Department of Urban Studies (US).ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9079-8359
2020 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis studies household waste prevention from a social scienceperspective. Swedish waste management is efficient in handling wastebut has not succeeded in reducing its quantities, even though theissue of waste prevention is being raised at both international andnational levels.The aim of this thesis is to study and analyse the practice ofhousehold waste prevention. I seek to understand and explainhow it may be possible for households in their everyday to reducethat waste. With understanding comes an aspiration to mitigatewhatever impedes households from reducing their waste. A secondaim is therefore to apply these new understandings and make policysuggestions as to how household waste prevention can be promotedand supported.

My research questions are:• How is everyday household waste prevention as a practicenarrated and discussed? And how can this practice andthe activities in it be understood in connection with socialstructures?• What obstacles and opportunities do households experience inconnection with the practice of everyday waste prevention?• What policy suggestions can be drawn from these findings?

Household waste prevention has in earlier research often beenstudied from a waste management perspective, juxtaposing it withrecycling. These studies has identified a need to approach the areafrom a consumption perspective. Sustainable consumption has,however, in general failed to incorporate disposal as a practicesin itself, in that disposal involves competence in knowing what todo with certain things, as well as relation between things and theirmeanings. This runs the risk of leaving waste and waste preventionas part of consumption scarcely researched. It is in this identified gapthat I place my study.In order to address my questions, two studies were carried out.The first is presented in Article I, ‘Household practices of disposal –Swedish households’ narratives for moving things along’. The datawas gathered using in-depth interviews with Swedish households not explicitly devoted to waste prevention. The study focused oneveryday disposal activities. The second study, presented in Article II,is called ‘The practice of household waste minimisation’. This studycollected data from Swedish bloggers engaging in waste-minimisationpractices, sometimes called ‘zero-waste bloggers’, focusing on howthese forerunners describe practising waste minimisation in theireveryday.In both studies I used sociological theories of how humans asactors relate to the social structures and how humans act in theireveryday. The theories applied were derived from the extensive workof Anthony Giddens on structuration and late-modernity. As I placehousehold activities at the centre of my study, I have also appliedtheory of practice.

My analysis starts off with the claim that waste is an unintendedconsequence of keeping up shared practices: in other words, thathousehold waste production is neither deliberate nor completelyvoluntary. For waste prevention practices to happen, the prevailingidea that recycling alone is good enough needs to be challenged.There need to be other opportunities to act, such as buying secondhandclothes, unpackaged groceries, repairable electronics etc. Theseopportunities need to be normalised, meaning that they need tobe socially spread and accepted. They also need to be reasonablyconvenient, as in not demanding too much time and effort. The studyof the minimising forerunners reveals that these households have tostruggle in their everyday to minimise their waste. This implies thathousehold waste prevention is not supported by the social structuresin Sweden and, therefore, will not increase by itself.I move on to suggest a new model for the understanding ofsustainable consumption. This model takes the perspective of practicetheory and presents four stages of consumption: need, obtain, use anddispose. All four stages should be recognised as possible situationsfor interventions. There is also a need for a holistic perspective onconsumption, where none of the stages is studied in isolation fromthe rest.I conclude the thesis by pinpointing the identified major obstaclesto household waste prevention, and by suggesting necessary changesin order for household waste prevention to become a shared practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Malmö: Malmö universitet, 2020. , p. 85
Series
Dissertation Series in Migration, Urbanisation, and Societal Change ; 12
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-13752DOI: 10.24834/isbn.9789178770731ISBN: 978-91-7877-072-4 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7877-073-1 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mau-13752DiVA, id: diva2:1412916
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-03-11 Created: 2020-03-09 Last updated: 2020-06-02Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Household practices of disposal: Swedish households’ narratives for moving things along
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Household practices of disposal: Swedish households’ narratives for moving things along
(English)In: Journal of Consumer Culture, ISSN 1469-5405, E-ISSN 1741-2900Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-17181 (URN)
Available from: 2020-05-06 Created: 2020-05-06 Last updated: 2020-06-02Bibliographically approved
2. The practice of household waste minimisation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The practice of household waste minimisation
(English)In: Environmental Sociology, ISSN 2325-1042Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:mau:diva-17182 (URN)
Available from: 2020-05-06 Created: 2020-05-06 Last updated: 2020-06-02Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
  • apa
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  • Other locale
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Output format
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