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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling

UrbanMine: Institutionalisation processes in times of circular green transitions

Alternative title: Urban gruvedrift: Institusjonalisering for grønn omstilling

Awarded: NOK 9.7 mill.

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2020 - 2023

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This research project aims - in collaboration with municipal and private actors - to study institutional frameworks, attitudes and management of mineral waste as a resource. The question we ask is what political, institutional and business barriers and opportunities exist in the reuse / recycling of metals and minerals. The green shift requires a shift towards lower climate gas emission and a reduction in the overall impact of the natural environment. Concepts such as circular economy and urban mining are central for the green shift and indicate a need for restructuring in society's waste management. Waste as a resource and raw material for recycling can relieve the raw material extraction in rural areas and thus major natural impact. Increasing garbage production is not only a waste of resources and area-demanding, but is also a climate problem. Urban mining, that is, extracting minerals that have been in use, can save resources and thus help to achieve the climate goals. Traditional mining is increasingly expensive, and recycling has become more and more profitable. In addition, traditional mining is creating conflicts due to its environmental impact and use of huge areas. Therefore, measures and systems that view waste as a resource are important, and this is the basis of our project. This project will look at political, institutional and business conditions that can increase understanding of how important recycling of minerals is in the society of the future. The project will look at man-made waste products as resources as a new political, economic and institutional area, looking at waste management as environmental management. It's objective is to map both institutional barriers and opportunities, what works well, and less well. In dialogue with the industries, this will map "urban mining" as an institution. A key question therefore is how the institutional framework can be transformed so that today's barriers can be eliminated.

The UrbanMine project investigates the barriers and opportunities that exist in the path of urban mining institutionalisation. The project sees the urban mining as an exemplary case of institutional change in the context of the green shift. It is a political process (both top-down and bottom-up) in which new practices arise, and roles and functions are distributed and maintained in new ways and find their way within social structures. Based on the recognition that institutions play fundamental roles in addressing the current environmental challenges we face, the project will influence how we explore new pathways to sustainability. The UrbanMine project has a national scope of interest, but looks in depth into the cases of recirculation practices in Namdalen, Salten and Lofoten. The project engages in collaboration with waste management actors in these selected regions, as well as municipal actors, who will assist in the process of institutional mapping and data collection, while the knowledge generated by the project will help steer regional and national strategies for the recirculation of minerals from anthropogenic sources. The project adopts a multi-method approach that includes analysis of policy frameworks, a survey concerning attitudes towards recycling practices in household and businesses, a material flow analysis in the selected cases, innovative system arrangements and business models for enabling urban mining, and analysis of modes of governance. Findings will be published as independent research papers, included some as a part of a PhD-thesis produced. Additionally, we will present results and findings at scientific conferences and workshops. The team will also provide the public with outcome through multy medial platforms i.e. web pages, popular magazines and local/national social and edited media.

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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling