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Effective dialogue: Enhanced public engagement as a legitimising tool for municipal waste management decision-making
- Kenisha Garnett, Tim Cooper
- Waste management 2014 v.34 pp. 2709-2726
- citizen participation, decision making, infrastructure, issues and policy, landfills, planning, politics, risk, social impact, stakeholders, waste treatment, wastes
- The complexity of municipal waste management decision-making has increased in recent years, accompanied by growing scrutiny from stakeholders, including local communities. This complexity reflects a socio-technical framing of the risks and social impacts associated with selecting technologies and sites for waste treatment and disposal facilities. Consequently there is growing pressure on local authorities for stakeholders (including communities) to be given an early opportunity to shape local waste policy in order to encourage swift planning, development and acceptance of the technologies needed to meet statutory targets to divert waste from landfill. This paper presents findings from a research project that explored the use of analytical–deliberative processes as a legitimising tool for waste management decision-making. Adopting a mixed methods approach, the study revealed that communicating the practical benefits of more inclusive forms of engagement is proving difficult even though planning and policy delays are hindering development and implementation of waste management infrastructure. Adopting analytical–deliberative processes at a more strategic level will require local authorities and practitioners to demonstrate how expert-citizen deliberations may foster progress in resolving controversial issues, through change in individuals, communities and institutions. The findings suggest that a significant shift in culture will be necessary for local authorities to realise the potential of more inclusive decision processes. This calls for political actors and civic society to collaborate in institutionalising public involvement in both strategic and local planning structures.