Substance Flow Analysis for Environmental Managementin Local Authorities : method development and context

Abstract: This thesis deals with the use of Substance Flow Analysis (SFA) in Swedish local authorities. The tool of SFA is often claimed to be supportive of decision-making, since it provides information about sources of emissions and relates these to actors and activities in society. Local authorities are actors that deal with environmental issues in many different ways and would thus potentially benefit from the information gained by SFA. However, they do not commonly use the tool; the aim of the thesis has therefore been to analyse the options for the use of SFA by local authorities.Based on the studies included, it is argued in the thesis that the SFA method can be adapted to further suit local authorities, both regarding the design and the performance of studies. This can occur, for instance, by local authorities themselves taking part in the problem definition, but also in the choice of substances, system boundaries and systems components being made on the basis of local authorities' interests. Furthermore, the quantitative results that are often the outcome of SFAs are not self-explanatory for the local authorities to transfer into information for environmental management.Thus, a tentative framework for interpretation consisting of five aspects is suggested and discussed: quantities, exposure to humans and environment, resource economy, function and capacity to influence. Applying this framework to the case studies of local SFAs of cadmium, which are included in the thesis, it is apparent that the local authorities mainly have to deal with non-functional flows, over which they have little capacity to influence.Interest in SFA studies is at present mainly to be found in larger local authorities, since the smaller local authorities consider carrying out SFAs to be too demanding in terms of personnel resources and time. However, this thesis shows that to some extent it is possible for a local authority to learn from an SFA in another municipal territory. Information about the characteristics of a certain substance metabolism can be used by the own local authority for a discussion about where to find stocks of the substance in interest, but also for identification of potential sources of emissions and the main actors responsible. It should be noted that all local authorities that were studied pointed out that interest in the tool is likely to increase in the future - as part of an attempt to grasp the complexity of environmental issues.

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