Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

M. Martin Bosman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Fenda Akiwumi, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Stephen Buckman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gregory Herbert, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Rebecca Zarger, Ph.D.


Actor-Networks, Environmental Risk, Recycling, Renewable Energy, Waste Incineration


Recent history has seen some significant changes in terms of how society thinks about and deals with its wastes. Increasingly troubling indications of the immediacy of ecological concerns, now often described by the Anthropocene concept, have been provocative of a reinvigorated fervor for a sustainability transition. As a result, sustainability has become well-established as both an urgent pursuit and an eminently pliable buzzword. This research describes and explains one key aspect of society’s pursuit of some version of sustainability: our relationship with waste.

The site of this research is Tampa, Florida, a sunbelt city with a unique waste management system. Tampa is the largest city in the U.S. that incinerates (nearly) all locally generated wastes, while also reporting consistently high recycling rates. To help reveal the characteristics of waste management in Tampa, this research used a mixed-methods approach to combine the analytical advantages of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) with the explanatory power of qualitative interviews. First, the ANT case study method was used to analyze significant network linkages in the vicinity of Tampa’s McKay Bay waste to energy facility. The proximate explanation for the functioning of the Actor-Network that resulted was then relieved of the ‘bracketing’ of ANT in order to classify Tampa’s waste management model as an example of an incineration-based waste regime. Finally, the appearance of a local incineration consensus is described alongside ongoing efforts to portray the incinerator as a sustainability machine.

This case study provides a useful sketch of how the pursuit of sustainable waste system is likely to unfold, whom is likely to benefit, and how important definitions will be settled upon along the way. The findings highlight the strength of the incineration Actor-Network and its emergent ability to function as a durable and self-perpetuating incineration-based waste regime.