'Burning for the Future'? A qualitative inquiry into the paradox of incineration as a waste management solution for "green" Denmark

Roee Aharon, Emanuella Christensen, Snorre Frid-Nielsen & Betina Husen

Studenteropgave: Semesterprojekt


Paradoxically, despite its reputation as a “green” leader, Denmark has the highest levels of waste and incineration per capita, as well as low levels of household recycling. Incineration ranks low on EU and Danish waste strategies, due to its negative environmental impact. While much social science research on waste management focuses on behavioral change at the individual level, this study explores how urban Danish household recycling habits and waste management, with an inclination towards incineration, are shaped by social, political and historical structures. Using a reflexive hybrid constructivist-structuralism epistemology, inspired by Bourdieu’s Logic of Practice, Schnaiberg’s Treadmill of Production and Hannigan’s Claims-making Process, the research project utilized an inductive qualitative approach. A three-pronged research design included: an exploration of the current household recycling practices using research diaries and secondary data, a historical inquiry into notable shifts in waste management related to incineration since 1850, and a case study of ARC/Amagerforbrænding, a Danish incineration facility. The study found that, due to a complex interweaving of the investigated structures, incineration was favored over recycling within the institution of waste management, with the exception of times when risk has felt sufficiently “real” by Danish citizens. This occurred through the political claims-making process, where the public collectively misrecognized that the economic benefits of incineration is the driving mechanism and underlying factor behind waste management decisions in Denmark, rather than ambitions to meet environmental goals.

UddannelserBasis - International Samfundsvidenskabelig Bacheloruddannelse, (Bachelor uddannelse) Basis
Udgivelsesdato18 jun. 2013


  • Misrecognition
  • Hannigan
  • Bourdieu
  • Agency
  • Practice
  • Management
  • Amagerforbrænding
  • History
  • Qualitative
  • Waste
  • Treadmill of Production
  • Habitus
  • Copenhagen
  • Urban
  • ARC
  • Claims-making Process
  • Incineration
  • Sociology
  • Denmark
  • Structures
  • Politics
  • Recycling
  • Schnaiberg