This is a qualitative, case comparative study of municipal solid waste management (MSW) and energy policy and practice in Ontario. It aims to critically assess how policy actors’ interpretations of the contingencies of MSW management and energy policy (such as human health and environmental impacts) affect their perceptions of and their decisions regarding various waste to energy (WTE) technologies. These technologies include incineration of residual waste and harnessing biogas (primarily methane) generated either by anaerobic digestion of source separated organic waste or anaerobic decomposition of biodegradable residual waste in landfills. This study will contribute to research objectives 1, 2 and 4.
The case studies (Toronto, Durham, Peel) have been selected on the basis of differences in: type of WTE technology; stage of development of WTE facilities (e.g., existing, under construction) and; proximity of WTE facilities to the municipality.
Toronto: no incineration WTE, pending biogas-to-energy from landfill and anaerobic digestion
Durham: pending incineration WTE
Peel: existing and pending incineration WTE; existing landfill gas to energy
Our mixed methods design includes – interviews and policy content analysis within a grounded theory approach. Evidence will principally be gathered from interviews with waste and energy policy actors, that is, representatives from government, non-government, private business and local community organisations who actively participate in policy negotiations or public discourses related to waste or energy issues.
The work will be of interest to a wide array of waste and energy policy actors including: waste managers, energy planners, sustainability advocates, politicians, residents and academics. By understanding the processes and structures that have shaped existing decisions we hope to enhance dialogue and highlight routes for more sustainable decision-making and practices around waste and energy. Further, this research will make substantive contributions to the geographies of waste, concerning how to incorporate WTE into more sustainable waste management.