Technological change in Swiss thermal waste treatment: An expert-based socio-technical analysis

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Understanding technological change provides a crucial basis for governing sustainability transitions. In this paper we present an analysis of technological change using the example of Swiss thermal waste processing. In recent years, increased concerns about the low quality of residues from grate-firing systems
led to the examination of alternative technologies. Yet despite clear indications of a potential better performance with respect to residue quality, none of these alternatives has been adopted. Based on a two-stage knowledge integration among 15 leading experts, in a retrospective analysis we identified factors that have significantly affected technological change in Swiss thermal waste processing.
These factors were then related to three technological options representing different types of technological change, i.e., from incremental improvements of the existing to the implementation of a new technology. The results indicate that technological change is currently in a technological lock-in and provide detailed insights on the causes. The lock-in results in the step-wise further development
of the status quo grate-firing system despite its limitations for improving the residue qualities. Almost all factors (legal, economic, societal, technological) of the existing ‘thermal waste management’ system have been well adapted to the cost- and energy-efficient grate-firing technology, blocking innovative
technologies from entering the Swiss market. In addition, pressures from the context, e.g., societal pressure related to landfill risks, have not been strong enough to promote non-incremental change.
ZeitschriftWaste Management
Seiten (von - bis)1382-1394
Anzahl der Seiten13
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 2010