The impact of 'Friends of the Earth Scotland' on the Zero Waste regulations proposal

A discourse analysis

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2011

12 Pages, Grade: 1,3




1. Introduction

2. Critical discourse analysis
2.1 Conducting critical discourse analysis

3. Discourse analysis of the FOES's policy briefing paper

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography
5.1 Appendix 1
5.2 Appendix 2
5.3 Appendix 3
5.4 Appendix 4

1. Introduction

The public perception of the Zero Waste plans went through several changes in the time from 2009 – 2011. The dynamics of the case show that the SNP government preferred to address industrial concerns of increasing costs the Zero Waste decisions would bring (Appendixes 1 and 2; SRC 2008). The Zero Waste plan was not rejected by environmental pressure groups and MSPs per se at the beginning. However, after the consultations on the regulations in 2011, the MSPs critiqued the incinerator establishment plans (TSP 2011) and called for “moratorium on incinerators” (BBC 2011). One month later after the Labour debate on 15th September 2011, governmental Zero Waste regulations plans have been unveiled - without addressing any of the offered critism .

In this report the document to be analysed is FOES's briefing policy paper for the Labour debate on Waste Management in 2011 (Appendix 4). The previous document, which welcomed the Zero Waste plan, provides only limited option for discourse analysis and is therefore added in the appendix for means of information (Appendix 3). The main objective of the analysis is to describe the discourses which were used to influence the MSPs rather than to investigate why the final regulations were presented without any appropriate amendments. This angle is more of interest then the angle of industries and local authorities, because it illustrates how an environmental pressure group could persuade MSPs through skillful usage of language.

2. Critical discourse analysis

Critical discourse analysis is chosen over other analysis methods, because it appears to be more appropriate for the epistemological interest of this case. Discourse analysis works to uncover the relationships of power constructed through utilisation of discourses in the language. Language consists of ambiguous messages, which can be interpreted differently (Hall 1980), and allows a view of a much more "ingrained and well-embedded system of ordering" (Hajer and Laws 2001, p.252). This writing aims to analyse how language is being used in order to create specific world views and how do various discourses cooperate within the language, so the MSPs take a dominant – hegemonic position and ‘decode’ the message within the terms it was ‘encoded’ (Hall 1980).

In the literature a range of theoretical constructs of the meaning and purpose of discourse are discussed (Hajer and Laws 2006; Fairclough 2001; Jäger 2001; Fairclough 2000; Fairclough and Wodak 1997). These discussions are concerned with relations of actors and the construction of reality. Jäger (2001) describes discourses as a power factor in order to induce behaviour and other discourses. The exercise of power happens as the discourses transport knowledge on which the collective and individual consciousness is based. This emerging knowledge induces the bahaviour or action that shapes the reality. Hajer and Laws (2006) define discourses as "ensemble of concepts and categorisations through which meaning is given to phenomena" (p.261) and which offer ways to perceive reality, define problems and guide solutions in a particular direction. So in the case of the analysed briefing paper, it will be investigated what kind of reality is constructed; what are the problems in this reality; what are the appropriate solutions; and what kind of knowledge is transferred in order to induce action after reading the briefing paper.

Fairclough (2001) also addresses in depth the concept of power, which is essential for the discourse analysis. He claims the existence of power in and behind the discourse. This view is based on Foucault's theory (Hajer and Laws 2006, p.262) that discourse analysis exposes a particular power regime within the process of policy-making. Therefore, discourses in policy-making documents represent the social world and the policy-making process itself (Fairclough 2000). For this report's case these deliberations help to examine what perception of power is revealed in the analysed document and how does it contribute to constraints of the Scottish Government's statements in the Labour debate.

2.1 Conducting discourse analysis

For the actual conduction of the analysis Jäger's (2001) methodological steps were applied. Through previous knowledge on the topic (Appendixes 1 and 2), the attitude of environmental pressure groups such as FOES towards the Zero Waste regulations was characterised. Then the recent consultations on the regulations were scrutinised with the focus on different statements made by environmental organisations. FOES's policy briefing document was chosen for the final analysis, because it displayed particular discourses, which are typical for the environmentalist groups.

Due to methodological tools of discourse analysis, a detailed consideration of language was provided. After inspecting the language, an understanding of the world view; the entities; and the relations of the entities within this world view, was possible. The next step was recognising the structures and beliefs behind the tactically chosen language. Finally, after putting the findings on a more abstract level, statements about the impact of the utilised discourses on the decisions in the case were made.

3. Discourse analysis of the FOES's policy briefing paper

Reformist and radical environmental discourses (Dryzek 2005) lead the narrative of the briefing paper: survivalism discourse, sustainable development discourse and green consciousness change discourse. The utilisation of more than one discourse displays intertextuality, which is a distinctive feature of the discourse analysis.

The hierarchical relationships between the basic entities the Scottish Government; politicians; local authorities; industries and supermarkets; communities and individuals; and finally environmental groups are essential for this document. The Scottish Government acts in public interest by introducing Zero Waste regulations on the one hand. On the other hand, it acts as a monopole by proposing building of incinerators. Moreover, it prevents the community from participating in decision-making processes; takes advantage of non-knowing local authorities; and considers interests of industries. The waste streams, which end up in the landfill and incinerators, come mainly from industries. However, the Scottish Government focuses in its regulations mostly on the waste from householders, which contributes to social and environmental injustices. The construct of environmental injustice is typical for the sustainable development discourse. FOES use this concept in the briefing paper and introduce enhancement measures to the Zero Waste regulations in order to overcome the issues of environmental injustice. Looking at the individuals from the viewpoint of green consciousness change discourse, the concept of decentralisation (Carter 2007) should be the requested outcome of the debate. Individuals should be properly consulted on waste-related proposals in order to participate in the final decisions. Survivalism metaphors are used throughout the document. "Scotland's waste mountain" indicates critique on status quo; "ticking incineration bomb" shows the apocalyptic danger which governmental proposals will bring; "locking in local authorities" illustrates the grim future of local authorities in case they agree with the proposals (FOES 2011a, pp.1-2).

The document starts with the critique on status-quo and presents solutions in terms of measures and mechanisms for changing the critical circumstances, which call for explicit actions such as reducing the amount of produced waste in the first place. The accordance of the structure with the principles of ecologism (Dobson 2000, cited in Carter 2007, p.11) in the structure reveal the environmental ideology in the text. Derived from the language in the text and its interpretation, the power behind the discourse is clearly by the Scottish Government and by the industries. However, the FOES consults the Labour party on this matter in order to change the power relations. The used discourses provide a starting point for shared knowledge. The idea of environmental justice based on Aarhus Convention's principles (FOES 2011b) for example, appears in the text several times. These principles coordinate with one of the prevalent definitions of environmental justice: "safety and quality of the environments where people live, work, play and learn with concerns for social and economic justice." (Cox 2006, p.49). These logical appeals simplify the understanding for the politicians, thus simplify the adopting process of the principles in the debate.

Further ideas in the text illustrate the interdependent relationship between humans and nature: polluting the nature through burning the waste contributes to negative health and quality of life impacts on communities. Moreover, the need of the fuel wood for the incinerators will exploit Scotland's as well as international finite wood resources. So the created reality in this documents positions the Scottish Government and the industries as powerful actors, who cannot use their power properly in order to save the environment and prevent the climate change. Therefore, a change in power relations is needed, so the public can recognise the expendability and danger of the 'energy from the waste' (TSG 2011b) proposal and agree with the importance of solutions proposed by environmental groups.

It is obvious that the document provides strong expertise for the sharp critique towards governmental plans of establishing incinerators as one of the measures derived from the proposed Zero Waste regulations. MSPs critised and rejected the planned creation of further incinerators and called for a focus on plans which induce creation of less waste. It is clearly observable, that the MSPs used FOES's key arguments from the briefing paper, because they started to share the way of thinking provided by the discourses in the document. Through the arguments made by the opponent parties

4. Conclusion

The used methodology supported the findings because of its critical approach to the examined policy briefing paper. Through conducting discourse analysis, the ability to create specific reality through language was clearly demonstrated. Since “ world […that] is a kaleidoscope of potential realities” (Hajer and Laws 2006, p.252), the reality constructed in the language of the briefing paper reflected the views and needs of environmental pressure groups.

In conclusion it can be claimed that discourses in the document regulated political perception of the Zero Waste case and determined which parties in the case will turn into collaborators rather than to opponents. It will be interesting to observe, whether the regulations will be presented to the Scottish Parliament without any appropriate amendments in the plan and what discourses may be adopted by environmental pressure groups to drop their implementation.


Excerpt out of 12 pages


The impact of 'Friends of the Earth Scotland' on the Zero Waste regulations proposal
A discourse analysis
Queen Margaret University
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
friends, earth, scotland, zero, waste
Quote paper
Anonymous, 2011, The impact of 'Friends of the Earth Scotland' on the Zero Waste regulations proposal, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Read the ebook
Title: The impact of 'Friends of the Earth Scotland' on the Zero Waste regulations proposal

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free