Public strategies facing marketization of waste management

Friday, 3 July 2015: 2:15 PM-3:45 PM
TW1.3.03 (Tower One)
Dario Minervini, University of Naples “Federico II”, Naples, Italy
Waste management can be considered as a foundational economy field. Indeed it consists in a “taken for granted” services system related with probably the most “material” dimension of urban welfare. The mundane feature of the field is reinforced by the everyday involvement of households within a public-private system performing the hole chain of services and activities. Furthermore both public and private actors rely on a social licensed mandate in the name of “common values” and social returns (public health, environmental protection, eco-effectiveness treatment of waste materials).

This field was deeply reshaped  in the Nineties since the introduction of the European Waste Hierarchy (EWH) that was introduced in the national reform of the waste public utility (legislative Decree 22/97) driven by an ecological modernization strategy. Two socio-material dynamics enacted the reconfiguration: on one hand the technological fix connected with the industrialization of waste processing, on the other the hybridization of public and private organizations within the chain of waste management duties and responsibilities. Most recently the neoliberal project of liberalization and privatization of waste management was fostered coherently with the New Public Management (NPM) mantra and an intense national debate took place. Reactions facing  the reform process above mentioned were enacted. Citizens clearly expressed their opposition with a referendum in June 2011, at the same time many public companies and municipalities developed strategies to provide services “in house” in an on-going, confused and complex framework.

Here the aim is to reconstruct how the “in house” management of urban waste was interpreted, assuming that a continuum between resistance and coexistence could include a wide spectrum of strategies. In the first case those experiences in which public organisations try to maintain a welfare logic of action through an adaptive interpretation of norms are detected. At the second extreme of the continuum are organizations that adopt NPM inspired strategies, reshaping their management, accounting systems and services with the explicit aim to compete within a free-market scenario.

The analytical and empirical focus is limited to the narratives of urban waste management actors, organisation and institutions because of the qualitative sociological perspective here adopted, even if a more comprehensive heuristic strategy would be necessary. In conclusions the need for an interdisciplinary approach in such a complex and multidimensional phenomenon is argued. Indeed (soft) discourses/narrative and (hard) data, accounting technologies, co-construct and performs the functioning of a significant part of this field of foundational economy.