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Addressing Waste Management Challenges Using a Broader Systems Approach
Business Sciences and Management Journal (BSMJ), Volume 2, Aug 2017

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In recent decades, rapid economic development and increasing population in urbanized parts of the world have resulted in a much increased resource use and consequently release of gaseous, liquid and solid emissions. Nowadays, waste management (WM) is a growing concern of organizations and municipalities due to increasing environmental awareness in society and adverse consequences of unsustainable WM practices. Consequently, waste issues have been extensively discussed in sustainable development agenda and understanding of WM issues in a systems perspective have been much improved. Significant advancements have been made in WM, such as waste collection, material recovery and treatment and advanced landfilling. However, these technological improvements have been introduced considering only WM system itself and lacking a systems approach to resource extraction, production, consumption and WM as a whole. Therefore, today, the traditional reductionist approaches to WM proves to be short term solutions rather than true long term sustainability thinking. Although, waste reduction and resource management initiatives have been introduced throughout the products life cycle chain, such as cleaner production, design for environment, industrial symbiosis and extended producer responsibility, they lack in providing holistic solutions to resource use. Additionally, these efforts are carried out in relatively isolated working systems. This isolation give them the effect of end of pipe solutions to the problem rather than a true system solution (technological and framework oriented), which would be necessary to fulfill combined broader goals instead of just managing waste. The overall aim of this paper is to holistically address current challenges to WM with the help of a much broader systems view. In order to accomplish this aim, current WM issues are discussed in a global perspective to explore the gaps in current practices on a systemic level. Different examples are used to illustrate the various deep root causes responsible for the current situations by highlighting various aspects related to WM, such as product design, consumer awareness and limited systemic view. The study leads to conclusions that the current efforts, rather isolated, in different systems for WM, waste reduction and resource management are indeed not sufficient in a long term sustainability perspective. The suggested broader systems approach considers production, consumption and WM systems aligned to provide long term sustainable solutions to waste issues.

Author(s): Singh J., Laurenti R., Frostell B. and Wennersten R.
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