Martti Ahtisaari International Doctoral Scholarship Programme

  • Year of admission: 2018
  • Home country: Finland
  • Research topic: Waste incineration in the framework of circular economy and climate change mitigation
  • Main thesis supervisor: Research professor Maria Kopsakangas-Savolainen
  • Discipline: Economics

Waste incineration in Waste-to-Energy (WTE) plants has increased rapidly in Finland and new investments are being planned. Energy recovery from waste incineration crowds out the use of fossil fuels, and might contribute to climate change mitigation. Simultaneously, combustion of wastes hinders the recycling of materials and sustaining the economic value of various side and end flows according to the principles of circular economy (CE).

In my dissertation research, I aim to find cost-efficient and environmental load minimizing ways to utilize waste-to-energy under tightening recycling and emission abatement goals. What is the optimal rate of recycling, and when waste incineration is justified? What kind of path dependency follows from WTE capacity? The study focuses also on the effects of WTE on recycling rates on regional and nation-wide levels.

Results help in the planning of national waste management and policy choices. Currently, there is lack of such research, which undermines the possibilities of achieving the set goals cost-efficiently. Regional waste companies and private firms can also utilize research results. Households benefit from the results concerning WTE as well, since the detailed information on the effects of waste incineration might affect the willingness to recycle.

Societal institutions (e.g. waste management system) and built infrastructure (e.g. WTE plants) are characterized by path dependency and technological lock-in effect. This creates the motivation for comprehensive analysis of waste incineration and its effects on waste management and energy industry and on the possibilities to decrease resource use and abate greenhouse gas emissions. My thesis will concentrate on Finland, but there are several international connections with respect to waste shipping and WTE capacity abroad. Research results are relevant to the circular economy goals in Europe.

Previous degrees:

M.Sc. (Econ. & Bus. Adm.), University of Oulu, Oulu Business School (2015), economics

M.Sc., University of Helsinki (2011), political history