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Meet PhD Candidate Jessika Luth Richter

Focusing on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies for low carbon technologies

A broad research interest in the field of environmental policy and a master’s degree in Environmental Management and Policy motivated Jessika Luth Richter to apply for PhD studies at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, where she is now doing her second year as a PhD candidate with focus on extended producer responsibility policies for low carbon technologies. Besides her research Jessika is involved in the IIIEE Massive Open Online Course, Greening the Economy: lessons from Scandinavia, as well as doing what she loves the most, teaching.

Here are five quick questions with Jessika Luth Richter:

What is currently on your research agenda? 

I am finalizing a research project for the Swedish Energy Agency, which looked at best practices and challenges for effective disposal and recycling of energy efficient lighting products.

I found that the Nordic countries in particular, do this well, however there are still areas for improvements. One big question is how to effectively deal with critical materials, such as rare earth elements, found in waste products. When the prices were high in 2010/2011, there was a big push for recycling. However, now with lower prices most of the recycling opportunities have ceased to be interesting.

These questions of value in waste products and how to maintain closed loops are the focus of the second half of my research.

What drives you to be a researcher?

I am driven by my passion to address the environmental problems facing our society. I volunteered in environmental organisations and worked in education before becoming a researcher.

In these roles I saw that there are still many questions and gaps in our knowledge, not only about the environmental problems, but particularly the possible solutions. This was an area where I wanted to be more involved.

I first studied the Environmental Management and Policy Master’s programme at the IIIEE and then applied for a PhD position.

What’s the best part of being a researcher?

I like the freedom and creativity in being a researcher. It is a role in which we can think outside the box to explore theoretical solutions and then work on making them practical too. 

The best part of being a researcher is when my findings are used by different stakeholders, to either make better decisions or change their thinking and practices. Realistically, this is often very small, but then I am one of many researchers doing this, so together I think we are making bigger changes. 

Why did you want to become a researcher at the IIIEE?

I became a researcher at the IIIEE because it is an institute that is focused on solutions and works very closely with stakeholders in an effort to ensure the research can be used to further enable solutions to environmental problems. 

The IIIEE is a small institute, which means you quickly know everyone, which is very nice as a junior researcher to be able to talk with senior researchers. For a small institute, the IIIEE has already had significant impact on environmental policies in the last 20 years. For example in my current research area of extended producer responsibility, Dr. Thomas Lindhqvist, who is my supervisor, first defined the term. So it is great to be working with the experts who were the first pioneers of many of the principles that we now see underpinning environmental policies today.

The IIIEE also has an impressive network of alumni from the master’s programmes that are a great resource of people working in all different roles, but all working on environmental solutions in one way or another.

What are the implications of your research for society?

The implications of my research for society, in a very practical sense, will be for improvement of policies, for example the WEEE Directive and Ecodesign Directive. On a larger level I hope to challenge our thinking around value and waste – something that is needed if we are going to make true progress towards transitioning to a low carbon and circular economy.

About Jessika Luth Richter

Background:  Jessika is originally from the U.S. but has lived 10 years in Australia and New Zealand, before moving to Sweden with her husband.

Family: Husband and son

Interests: Aside from work, family and travelling Jessika enjoys and compete in open water swimming.

Ongoing research projects: Policy instruments and business models for closed material loops


Text: Cecilia von Arnold

Photo: Johan Persson

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International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE)

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