Waste or Resource? How residues can come to use

If waste is matter out of place, then how can it be put in a place where it is something else and who and what is doing that? By studying waste, in this case sewage sludge, interdisciplinary, new perspectives can open up our view of the socio-technical system and increase our understanding of this hugely complex material.

Growing population and increased sanitation results in a residue, sewage sludge. The common practices of disposal in many countries have been landfilling and application to agricultural land. These practices are questioned as the sludge might contain potential harmful substances.

Sweden is currently in a potential transition from land application to a ban. There are narratives relating dangers and fears to the sludge. Sludge can be the unhygienic excreta from humans, full of potential diseases. It can also be the natural resource that has been contaminated by the waste of modern society, the natural and unnatural mixed. The sludge is thus, a threatening waste that must be handled with caution. Burning can relief ourselves from the burden of the problem. However, there are also other narratives, seeing the potential of the sludge and the natural return of it to the soil as fertilizer and the overestimation of risks and dangers.

These stories of naturalness, resourcefulness, pollution and waste establish a base for studying the socio-scientific technological transition of sewage sludge. I will look at the possibility of different interpretations of the reality of sludge and how this is being translated into norms and preferred management technologies.

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