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An estimated 1.3 billion tones of solid waste is collected worldwide yearly. This number is anticipated to rise to 2.2 billion tones by 2025, with almost all of the increase coming from developing countries. The focus of the article therefore, is on management of waste because of significant health and ecosystem hazards it can pose if not well managed. The article further recognizes the connection between research and practice in the area of reverse supply chain and how it can facilitate the waste management process.
The processes used for raw materials generation as well as the waste generated by the end users/customers are some of the stages in the supply chain that can be associated with waste generation. Research conducted on reverse supply chain show that by reusing, remanufacturing, and recycling used products/components waste reduction is achievable. Reverse supply chains are well ordered to oversee activities related to used product purchase; transportation of used merchandise to sorting facilities; scrutiny, sorting, and disposition of collected products; remanufacturing (or refurbishing) of returns; and the creation of secondary markets for remanufactured products Blackburn et al.
There are four levels in a reverse supply chain matrix according to Fleischmann et al. (2001) and they are: factories-where new products are manufactured and/or recovery takes place; storehouses-for distribution of new and/or recovered products; consolidation centers; and consumers. It is also important to explore the problem of who should collect used products in a supply chain system, for example, with a single manufacturer and a single retailer. Savaskan, Bhattacharya, and Van Wassenhove (2004) compare the money-making potential of different collection modes: (a) producer, (b) distributor, and (c) an independent third party and find that the preferred collecting agent is the distributor, followed by the producer, and the third party even though the findings are somewhat limited based on their constraining impression.
Earlier research which provides an elaborate outlook on examining the quality and quantity of returned products which are suitable for reusing, recycling, and/or remanufacturing is that of Souza, Ketzenberg, and Guide (2002) that gives a structure for understanding why customers return products and also the time scale of these returns.
Calcott & Walls (2000); Eichner & Pethig (2001); Fullerton & Wu (1989); and Dinan (2005). A nature-friendly design suggests lower material utilization, higher fraction of recycled product, or lower cost of recycling. When focusing on the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive within the EU, the use of targets in the directive would not necessarily lead to increased eco-design efforts on the part of manufacturers. What should be done is to call for a revision of the scope of the directive by focusing on developing environmental objectives and standards for treatment and recycling processes Mayers, France, and Cowell (2005) In sum, when it comes to environmental legislation, there is disputable evidence on whether Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) type legislations lead to adequate design for environment incentives (DfE).
For instance, it is observed by Palmer and Walls (1997) that EPR type legislations need to be accompanied with additional policies (e.g., taxes) for desired outcomes. Fee-upon-disposal legislations forces manufacturers to introduce new products too rapidly, which in turn generate more e-waste. Plambeck and Wang (2009) and Subramanian et al. (2009) find that a supply chain with an efficient customer lowers the manufacturer’s incentive to design the product with greater re-manufacturability. On the other hand, Atasu et al. (2009) notes that EPR type legislations alleviate fairness concerns and incentivize eco-design producers to create larger environmental benefits.
The assessment of waste management as a reverse supply chain outlook leads us to identify several important issues which should be addressed especially because there is little research on however the waste management ought to be designed and operationalized. There is also very little research towards monetary incentives such as subsidies and low-interest loans that require to be provided by the state for the successful management of waste management programs. Simply fixing EPR legislations geared toward taxing waste generators does very little to successfully manage the operations of corporations concerned in waste disposal. From an economics perspective, it would also be interesting to examine what would be a better option for waste management: centralization or decentralization. It is important to have the research directed at how to establish mechanisms by which the waste-management activity is actively supported by not only the state but also the waste management firms so as to ensure the overall success of the waste management incentives.
When it comes to waste management, addressing longer term issues rather than on merely tackling immediate problems should be the main focus. For instance, the scale of waste incineration facilities should be determined by focusing on current waste disposal as well as keeping in mind how their use might decline in the longer term due to reuse and recycling efforts. As I conclude, many current problems are typically addressed by state-private partnerships. Therefore, it is essential that such collaborations evolve to incorporate a system-wide focus necessary to achieve the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) of waste management over a longer time horizon. These collaborations should be focused on designing cost-efficient structures in a technologically intensive manner to enable the aggregation and disposal of multiple waste management streams.
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