Expansion of the waste-based commodity frontier: Insights from Sweden and Brazil




Gutberlet, Jutta
Bramryd, Torleif
Johansson, Michael

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Waste is a valuable commodity and remains a livelihood source for waste pickers in the global South. Waste to Energy (WtoE) is often described as alternative to landfilling, as it provides cheap fuel while making waste disappear. In some European cities, this method has evolved into an impediment, slowing down the adoption of more sustainable technologies and waste prevention. These plants typically strain municipal budgets and provide fewer jobs than recycling and composting, thereby inhibiting the development of small-scale local recycling businesses. We applied the idea of ‘waste regime’ with an interdisciplinary and situated lens to provide insights to the following questions: How do different political developments in Brazil and Sweden, frame and reframe waste incineration and energy recovery, in the context of sustainability and waste management on local, regional and national levels? What forms of resistance against WtoE exist and what are the arguments of these protagonists? We evaluated the impact of WtoE and compare it with other waste management options with regard to CO2 balances and general environmental and social impacts. We conclude by suggesting more socially and environmentally appropriate ways of waste management, particularly for the context of global South cities.



waste management, waste to energy, biogas, material recycling, circular economy, waste pickers, waste regime, sustainability, Brazil, Sweden


Gutberlet, J.; Bramryd, T.; & Johansson, M. (2019). Expansion of the waste-based commodity frontier: Insights from Sweden and Brazil. Sustainability, 12(7), 2628. DOI: 10.3390/cli7070088