Public strategies facing marketization of waste management
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.