Choosing Environmental Policy Instruments

The choice of policy instrument is central in the environmental policy process and of critical importance for achieving environmental objectives. Different instruments have different effectiveness, efficiency and distributional effects.

Today there are six types of instruments: administrative instruments, economic instruments, liability, education and information, voluntary agreements, and management and planning (OECD, 2001). Although there is widespread knowledge about individual instruments, the understanding of the choice process is limited.


In this project, an overview of the mixes of policy instruments for municipal waste that has evolved over the last decade in Sweden and England is made.

This comparative analysis reveals whether governments tend to choose more coercive and ‘harder’ instruments, or less coercive or ‘softer’ instruments, and discusses alternative explanations for this. In-depth case studies are also made of the choice process for two specific instruments; the landfill allowance trading scheme in England and the tax on incinerated waste in Sweden.

By tracking the process and identifying key decision points, these case studies show how the various explanatory factors in the analytical framework are played out in reality. The data used in this project consist of semi-structured interviews with members of the waste policy networks in Sweden and England and policy documents.

The aim of the project is to assess whether governments have managed to deliver on commitments to use new and alternative instruments to traditional regulation, and what mechanisms have been built into the policy process to enable a broad and comprehensive consideration of alternative instruments, in light of possible constraining factors or biases in the political context.

Based on this assessment a set of recommendations to policy-makers will be made, both for environmental policy in general and municipal waste policy in particular.

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