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Institutional structure of the agricultural utilization of sludge from wastewater treatment plants in Bulgaria

Bachev, Hrabrin (2023): Institutional structure of the agricultural utilization of sludge from wastewater treatment plants in Bulgaria.

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The process of turning wastewater treatment plant sludge from "waste into good (product)" is conditioned by various social, economic, technological, agronomic, personal, etc. factors, an important place among them is occupied by the institutional structure in which the related agents carry out their activities and relationships. Institutional Environment and Institutions of Governance provide opportunities and set constraints for agents in the chain, structure and determine their behavior and activity, and ultimately (pre)determine the effectiveness and the degree of use of sludge in agriculture. In this study, the interdisciplinary methodology of the New Institutional Economics is adopted and an analysis and assessment of the institutional structure of WTP sludge utilization in Bulgarian agriculture is made. The study found that over the last two decades, the institutional structure (regulatory framework, public, private, market and hybrid forms) of sludge utilization in Bulgarian agriculture has significantly improved. As a result, great progress has been observed in the agricultural use of sludge in the country. At the same time, uneven and unsustainable development of this process was found in the different regions of the country. Therefore, all factors limiting the behavior of the associated agents and leading to these fluctuations in sludge utilization are to be identified. In view of their relevance, interdisciplinary studies and evaluations of the institutional structure and factors of sludge utilization in agriculture have to be expanded and enriched. However, for this, it is necessary to collect a new type of micro and macro information from all interested parties, including through the official system of agro-statistics in the country and the EU. In view of the leading role of public intervention in this area, a new national strategy for the utilization of WTP sludge is to be developed, reflecting modern conditions and social priorities, and special measures be taken to support the interested parties, including farmers with tools of CAP. Trends in the development of the institutional structure and the utilization of sludge in other EU countries must also be studied to assess where Bulgaria is and where efforts are to be focused in the future.

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