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Pathway Towards Sustainable Waste Management in Western Australia: A Comparative Analysis

Info: 11698 words (47 pages) Dissertation
Published: 18th May 2020

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Tagged: Environmental Studies

1         Literature Review

1.1        Outline

Chapter 2 presents a review of the current literature on sustainable waste management (WM). The chapter is divided into three sections.

Section 2.1 provides an introduction to sustainable WM. It revisits the path to sustainability in waste management, defines sustainable WM as per recent approaches towards it and summarises key drivers that emphasize the need for sustainable WM and those than enable the transition towards it.

Section 2.2 studies and analyses current literatures in sustainable waste management. It discusses global progress in sustainable WM and discusses current developments regarding the common framework that guides the current waste management strategies.

Section 2.3 discusses developments towards sustainable WM in Western Australia. It provides a brief background on waste management practices in WA, identifies key drivers for sustainable WM in WA and discusses recent developments and gaps in realising sustainable waste management in WA.

Finally, Section 2.4 discusses developments towards sustainable WM in Japan. It provides a brief background on WM practices in Japan, identifies key drivers in Japan and discusses current developments on the topic.

1.2        Overview of Sustainable Waste Management

1.2.1       Emergence of Sustainable Waste Management

The current issue of wasteful consumption is primarily the consequence of industrialisation and the subsequent economic and population bloom. Figure 1(in Annex) illustrates the evolution in waste management alongside industrial evolution. As the complexity in reutilising wastes grew with passing industrial advancements, WMSs gradually moved towards waste disposal. Correspondingly, increasing amount of countries began experiencing a drastic upsurge of accumulated wastes which was primarily due to increasing population and spreading economic progress. Waste related issues were primarily the concern of western civilisations until the 1960s after which industrialisation and the consequent urbanisation began to spread beyond Europe and North America (Kemp 2014). Similarly, population growth rate reached its peak at 2.2% per year in 1962 (Roser et. al. 2019).

Likewise, environmental degradation resulting from the combination of dependence on waste disposal and surplus accumulation of wastes was the defining precursor that led to substantial initiatives towards sustainable WM. By late 20th century, mounting evidences of environmental pollution due to haphazard consumption and disposal of wastes and particularly, global warming were being brought to public attention through literatures such as the Limits to Growth (1972), the Brundtland Report (1987) and the Assessment Reports by IPCC (1992) which further necessitated the need for protecting intergenerational equity through sustainable developmental progress in all aspects of developmental activities.

Subsequently, the late 1970s saw definitive steps being taken towards sustainability in WM. One of the most influential steps towards sustainability was the establishment of the waste hierarchy. A guideline of preferences of waste methodologies was introduced by the European Union in the Second Environmental Action Program 1977-1981 called the European Waste Hierarchy (EWH) or waste hierarchy (Wilson 2007). The waste hierarchy (as seen in Figure 2 in Annex) places the highest priority towards waste prevention followed by reuse, recycle, recovery and disposal in a descending order of preference. This enabled development and execution of waste policies, strategies and programs for prevention and diversion of wastes. Another significant concept that was introduced early on which promotes sustainable waste management is the concept of zero waste. The term zero waste system was introduced in 1973 by Paul Palmer as a system in which resources are recovered from chemicals (Song et al. 2015). The primary aim of building a zero waste system was to create a cradle-to-cradle design structure for product life cycle where zero wastes are disposed. Likewise, 3R principle was introduced in early 2000 by Japan (Tanaka 2007). Until 1970s, traditional waste management systems included components of waste collection, transportation and disposal. However, introduction of EWH and 3R especially pushed global transition towards integrated WMSs that integrated programs for waste prevention and recovery in addition to waste collection and disposal.

Despite implementation of EWH and 3R, global progress towards waste reduction as been sluggish. While developed countries were driving recyclability since late 20th century, developing countries only began progressively transitioning to IWMSs by 2007 and improving their waste recycling and recovering rates (Li, Han and Lu 2018). However, global waste generation rates continue to project an increasing trend thirty years down the line which global wastes estimated to reach 3.40 billion tonnes by 2050 (Kaza et al. 2018). However, the concept of zero waste is increasingly becoming relevant to reduce or at best, prevent waste generation altogether. Likewise, literatures are increasingly focussing towards utilising policy instruments and strategic programs to reduce waste generation and at best, prevent it.

1.2.2       Defining Sustainable Waste Management

According to the definition provided in Our Common Future (1987), sustainability aims to maintain a balance between environmental, economic and social systems and anticipates current demands to respect future demands. Also, Geissdoerfer et al. (2017) highlight the reflexive and adaptive nature of sustainable systems that are required to maintain intergenerational equity.

Similarly, in case of a sustainable WMS, Seadon (2010) adequately defines it to be one that –

“… incorporates feedback loops, is focused on processes, embodies adaptability and diverts wastes from disposal.”

The above definition highlights how avoiding waste disposal requires a gradual propagation of sustainable WM practices beyond the boundaries of WMSs into processes that are part of a bigger, more complex system. Accordingly, recent literatures provide more precise directions for not just avoiding waste disposal but also preventing waste altogether.

For instance, Goren (2015) associates achieving sustainable waste management with being able to treat all types of wastes in ways that they become embedded into the economic system of material exchange.

Additionally, Silva et. al. (2017) describe waste management as an ‘… underutilised resource industry’ and associates the agenda of sustainability goals, sustainable production, sustainable consumption and circular economy with that of current waste policies, providing a pathway for WMSs to be integrated into current economic systems.

Khorasanizadeh, Alireza and McKay (2018) specifically identifies waste management as an entry point for sustainable management of resources and thus isolates sustainable materials management (SMM) as an integrated approach that promotes waste prevention through improved resource productivity and, enhanced material reusability and recyclability in materials life cycle.

So, in addition to WMSs, recent literatures highlight the need to integrate sustainable WM practices within production and consumption systems so as to improve material circularity and resource productivity while fostering a sense of resource sufficiency. The consequent synchronisation achieved between WMSs, production systems and consumption systems, hopes to enable economic progress that facilitates social needs while delinking socio-economic systems from environmental degradation. So, it can be said that the boundaries of sustainable WMS encompass that of a socio-economic system and sustainable WM practices can be defined as those activities that not only facilitate resource productivity and enable continuous circulation of secondary raw materials but also engrain a culture of resource sufficiency within socio-economic systems to avoid wasteful consumption of resources and commodities and thereby, generation of unwanted materials and their disposal (as shown in Figure 3 in Annex). Likewise, circular economy and zero waste are terms that are increasingly being utilised within literature to describe close-looped systems and pathways to enable transition towards it, respectively.

The current research has taken the above definitions of sustainable waste management into account in order to conduct a comparative analysis between the approach towards sustainable WM in Japan and in Western Australia. The lessons learnt from these concepts have provided a comprehensive understanding of the basic requirements of a WMS to be sustainable and has enabled the author to identify gaps and opportunities within the current WMS of the study areas.

1.2.3       Key Drivers of Sustainable Waste Management

Key drivers of sustainable WM are those factors that affect the performance of sustainable WMSs. Nine major drivers have been identifies within current literatures that affect the ability of sustainable WMSs in attaining material circularity, resource productivity and promoting resource sufficiency.

  1. Climate Change

By 2018, the global average surface temperature reached between 0.9C to 1.1C which in turn has resulted in higher occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones and fires, globally (Climate Council 2019).

Such weather events have led to trails of disaster wastes including the destruction of existing WM infrastructures. For instance, the aftermath of Hurricane Florence that hit in 2018 saw the contamination of water sources as a result of decomposing carcasses of millions of chickens, pigs and other livestock, antibiotics, manures etc. in the absence of sustainable WM strategies North and South Carolina (O’Neill 2019). As such, climate risks directly obstruct the functionality of existing WMSs while also creating additional wastes.

On the other hand, climate change continues to be a major developmental driver for radical transition toward sustainable WM. In light to the magnification of climate risks when global temperature rises by 2C, the latest IPCC report (2018) identifies lowering material and energy consumption and lowering consumption of GHG-intensive food to be the best approach – which in turn define sustainable WM. Also, the report highlights that economically under-developed countries and small island inhabitants are especially vulnerable to impending climate risks.

  1. Capacity to transition

Facilitating and maintaining sustainable WM at all levels require economic, technical and intellectual resources. As such, literatures have found that the approach toward and degree of commitment in implementing sustainable WM practices depends on the availability of such resources. So, most developed countries and regions such as those studies by Silva et al. (2017) and Sakai et al. (2017) focus on attaining material circularity in a socio-economic level through active collaboration and cooperation. On the other hand, developing countries like those analysed by Nizami et al. (2017) and Rodic and Wilson (2017) focus mainly towards strengthening the capacity of their WMSs to sustainably manage their wastes. Fortunately, international organisations such as OECD, United Nations etc. provide assistance in form of financial aid, intellectual support or toolkits to such countries.

Correspondingly, lack of above-mentioned resources remain perceived barriers for industrial systems and businesses towards implementing sustainable WM. However, as implementation of sustainable WM within corporate systems is gradually making good business sense due to its profitability, Rossi et al. (2016) identify governmental interventions that mandate and encourage active collaboration to be effective developmental drivers for the corporate world to implement compatible strategies within their product and service lifecycle.

  1. Leadership

A handful of developed countries, regions, communities and industries are gradually beginning to take the lead in incorporating sustainable practices within their framework. Likewise, increasing amount of literatures like those conducted by Zhu et al. (2019) and Williams et al. (2017) identify leadership especially when associated with collaboration to be a powerful drivers for longevity and effective execution of sustainability initiatives. Moreover, Prendeville et al. (2018) particularly highlight the significance of political leadership in addition to appropriate policies, strategies, tools and technologies, to enable sustainable WM and uphold material circularity. Likewise, governmental  leadership is especially influential in implementing and executing large-scale dissemination of sustainable WM strategies, policies and programs as per Mcdowall et al. (2017).

  1. Culture

Like leadership, cultural awareness is increasingly becoming an essential element of establishing sustainability within system boundaries. Crociata, Agovino and Sacco (2015) found a direct positive correlation between cultural inclination and willingness to follow recycling guidelines thus suggesting inclusion of policy instruments that ‘foster pro-environmental behaviours’. Also, cultural awareness utilised in synergy with governmental leadership can drive progressive implementation of strategies that enable transition towards sustainable WM as per Silva et al. (2017).

  1. Governmental and Institutional Interventions

As discussed earlier, political leadership is especially effective in facilitating the transition towards sustainable WM practices within national, regional and industrial systems. Likewise, governmental policies, regulations and strategies are one of the most influential tools to facilitate material circularity. For instance, zero waste strategies have enabled citizens of Adelaide to improve their waste avoidance practices at home (Song et al. 2015). Because of this, waste policies continue to be critically analysed within academic literatures such as the studies conducted by Johansson and Corvellec (2018), Zhu et al. (2019) and Li, Han and Lu (2018). Moreover, when implemented in synchronization with a culture of resource sufficiency and governmental leadership, can result to rapid improvements in influencing material circularity as in the case of San Francisco Silva et al. (2017). The current research analyses governmental policies and strategies between Japan and Western Australia in order to identify gaps and opportunities for WA to transition towards material circularity and resource sufficiency, which will be discussed in the following Chapters. Likewise, current developments in waste policies will be further discussed in Section 2.3.

Likewise, standards, guidelines and targets introduced by international organisations ensure consistent global progress towards sustainable WM. For instance, the Basel Convention was introduced by the United Nation (UN) in order to reduce the transfer of hazardous wastes from one country to another (UNEP). Likewise, Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) have been adapted by 193 countries, worldwide, in order to ensure global progress towards sustainable development (UNDP 2015). This is especially relevant to current WMSs because sustainable management of wastes is a must for attaining 12 of the 17 SDGs as per Rodic and Wilson (2017). Also, as discussed earlier, international organisations such as OECD and UN assist developing countries to facilitate their transition towards sustainable management of wastes. 

  1. Profitability

As discussed earlier, industrial systems play an essential role in maintaining sustainable WM practices within socio-economic boundaries. Likewise, increasing amount of case studies have found eco-efficiency strategies that engrain sustainable WM practices within product lifecycle to be cost-effective, making their integration into corporate framework, a good business sense.  For instance, Coca-Cola was able to save $180 million dollar just by reducing their packaging which was a result of the implementation of zero waste strategies (Song et al. (2015).

  1. Resource scarcity/ Value of waste

With increasing material demand and consumption, Sverdrup et al. (2017) predict invaluable metals such as copper, zinc, iron, aluminium to be scarce within the next 40 years and stress on the urgency to implement relevant policies to greatly enhance resource efficiency in current economic systems. As such, wastes are increasingly being considered as valuable resources and literatures are looking into innovative solutions for supporting the global journey towards sustainable WM. For instance, Burlakovs et al. (2018) look into the practicality in landfill mining in closed dumpsites to recover rare earth elements from wastes so as to minimize extraction and use of virgin raw materials.

Similarly, the value of waste is a key driver for influencing implementation and maintenance of sustainable WM practices in developing countries and least developed countries (LDCs). Scavenging continues to contribute to the economic cycle of such countries like in the case of Nigeria. Nigeria includes e-waste scavengers as part of their WMSs who recover valuable materials from e-wastes as their main source of income (Popoola et al. 2019; Rochman et. al. 2017).

  1. Innovation

Like leadership and culture, innovation is increasingly being sought as the solution to bridge the gap between socio-economic progress and environmental degradation within current literature. Innovation can occur within any part of product lifecycle, business framework or WMSs.

Literatures are currently looking to identify unique business models like Sustainable Product-Service Systems (S.PSS) that facilitate lending their resources and products in form of services as a means to move away from the conventional mass production and instead fulfil customer demands at the right amount. Fargnoli et al. (2018) found improvements in environmental performance and costs as a result of utilisation of S.PSS.

Industrial systems have especially utilised eco-innovation through design for the environment (DfE) approaches enabled by zero waste strategies. For instance, as part of the company’s goal for Zero Waste, programs such as Product take back implemented by Apple Inc. (2019) has enabled the recovery of  48,000 metric tons of e-wastes and use of recycled materials such as aluminium, plastics and cobalt among others to manufacture their products in 2018.

Likewise, innovations from the 4th industrial revolution utilised within WM infrastructures and services have been found to contribute towards efficient consumption of resources within current literatures. Ramos et al. (2019) found improvements in operational efficiency through fuel-cost savings and emissions reduction however privacy concerns and corresponding generation of e-wastes remained a concern.

Also, literatures continue to identify unique techniques to handle difficult-to-handle wastes, particularly, plastics. However, despite the presence of innovation solutions such as biodegradable plastics (Kato 2019) and chemical recycling of plastics (Garcia and Robertson 2017), economic and energy costs associated with such techniques continue to obstruct large-scale implementation.

  1. Projected population and economic growth

WMSs in developing countries are especially expected to be impacted by projected population and economic growth as Kaza et al. (2018) predicts a substantial rise in economy and population of developing countries. Population and economic growth have historically complicated the issue of handling wastes. As such, the absence of appropriate WMSs to accommodate circularity of future wasted materials will thus lead to increased disposal of wastes.

Among all the drivers, leadership and culture have the potential to enable radical transition required to minimize the impacts of climate change, globally. Likewise, developing countries are significantly influenced by climate change, the capacity to transition, leadership, value of waste and, projected population and economic growth. Moreover, international organisations have a larger impact on developing countries than on developed countries.

Conversely, while all drivers influence the progress of WMSs in developed countries toward sustainable WM, innovation plays a significant role in enabling material circularity within developed countries and rapidly developing countries such as China. Innovative market-based and technology-based solutions are currently being explored within literatures as the factor that bridges the gap between economic progress and wasteful consumption. Similarly, developed countries committed to transition towards resource productivity, material circularity and resource sufficiency are beginning to focus towards building a culture of resource sufficiency. The current research analyses the similarities and differences in the key drivers for WA and Japan that bolster or hinder their progress toward attaining material circularity and resource sufficiency.

1.3        State of the art in Sustainable Waste Management

1.3.1       Guiding principle: From 3Rs to 7Rs

As mentioned earlier, the concept of circular economy is increasingly being utilised within current literatures, when addressing the need to close the loop of current economic systems. Circular economy is basically a concept where environmental degradation is decoupled from socio-economic progress by driving resource productivity and resource sufficiency. Likewise, as mentioned earlier in Section 2.2.3, the concept of zero waste has been able to fast-track regional and industrial transition towards circular economy.

Since 1973, the concept of zero waste has evolved to one that enables circulation of materials within any system that is fuelled by materials intake. The current interpretation of zero waste is deftly summarized by the Zero Waste Hierarchy introduced by ZWIA which elaborates on the three basic principles of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The Zero Waste Hierarchy (2018) includes – rethink/redesign, reduce, reuse, recycle/compost, material recovery, residuals management and unacceptable/regulation. Among the 7Rs, the first three enable waste prevention while recycle/compost and material recovery enable recirculation of wasted materials. Likewise, residual management focus on biological treatment and stabilized landfilling of leftover wastes while incineration and WTE treatment are deemed as unacceptable waste management practices (as seen in Figure 4 in Annex).

Falling under the category of highest priority, rethink/redesign, reduce and reuse focus towards identifying and utilising opportunities for producers and consumers to avoid wasteful consumption or purchase of virgin raw materials and products. In absence of any such prospects, wasted materials are reprocessed and transformed into secondary raw materials or recycled products by recycling/ compost or through material recovery. When wastes are unable to be prevented, reduced or recycled, residual management sterilises decomposable wastes through biological treatment or utilises stabilized landfilling, especially when there is a potential for resource recovery in the future. ZWH requires wastes that are sent of residual management to be studied and monitored so as to avoid generation of such wastes in the future. Finally, unacceptable/regulation identifies WTE plants and incineration as unacceptable practices due to the resulting destruction of materials which in turn may incite utilisation of virgin raw materials. As such, ZWH ensures material circularity and drives the transition of a system toward circular economy.

However, the concept of circular economy is not without its flaws. Murray, Skene and Haynes (2017) highlights the need for circular economy to address social needs for equity and social justice. Also, because they focus towards material circularity, like EWH, ZWH run the risk of encouraging waste diversion rather than waste reduction. As such, for clear translation, waste targets must prioritise resource sufficiency and resource productivity over waste recovery (Johansson and Corvellec 2018). Also, literatures can look into developing social impact indicators like the ones evaluated by Ibanez-Fores et al. (2019), to help track progress regarding social needs and equity. In addition, Pietzsch et al. (2017) emphasize the need for active participation from all stakeholders for which effective governance, planning and quantification of desired targets in order to achieve a zero waste, close-looped system. Progress in these areas are discussed below.

1.3.2       Policies and programs: Enabling Resource productivity and Resources sufficiency

As discussed earlier, waste management strategies, Substantial progress has been made to drive sustainable production through use of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies introduced by the European Commission. However, the need for more stringent policies and regulations continue to persist within literary analysis of waste policies, particularly, in order to capture market for secondary raw materials and thus avoid market failure. Johansson and Corvellec 2018 and Wang et al. (2018) suggest mandating implementation of regulatory standards and incentivising waste prevention initiatives that facilitate use of recycled products and elimination of environmentally harmful products and, implementing waste prevention as a singular approach for waste management.

Likewise, literatures also highlight the need for waste-related policies to further drive sustainable production to enable sustainable consumption. As such, to ensure quality of recycled products and to promote reuse, Wilts et al. (2016) suggest providing waste targets that support resource efficiency. They also suggest distributing responsibility of managing end-of-life wastes of products and services to respective businesses and devising mandatory eco-design standards for repair-ability and reuse of products. Maximilian and Wagner (2017) further highlights the ability of such polices to encourage competitiveness and attract consumers to the secondary raw materials market.

Moreover, the increasing interest in sustainable consumption has gradually begun to highlight the necessity of behaviour change and establishment of waste-aware culture. While educational programs are effective in promoting waste prevention behaviours as demonstrated by Willis et. al. (2018), building a strong sense of community have been found to further prompts imitative behaviours of waste prevention and reuse.  Results from a study conducted by Corsini et al. (2018) showed a direct, positive correlation between a communal culture of waste prevention on the waste prevention behaviour of individuals that live within the community. Knowledge sharing platforms such as the Realization of Acceleration of a Circular Economy (RACE) have recently been utilised to facilitate such a transition. The initiative provides a combination of knowledge sharing platform and community projects which is intended to influence the youths (Kalmykova et. al. 2018; Circle Economy 2014). Also, Milios (2018) draws attention to some examples of policy interventions on consumption patterns that might encourage reuse and repair of products among consumers like the use of Reuse targets for WEEE and Value Added Tax (VAT) reduction in repair services.

However, the need to translate resource sufficiency within societal culture requires more drastic measures. As discussed in Section 2.2.3, underpinning the need for material circularity by establishing a culture of resource sufficiency can directly impact the longevity and maintenance of material circularity without having to worry about the potential for rebound effect. Like in the case of Japan (Silva et al. 2017), an in-built tradition of frugality may be utilised in order to drive a culture of resource sufficiency. However, not all countries may have such an in-built tradition. For this, the concept of sharing resources to maximize profitability while minimizing resource use introduced by Hobson and Lynch (2016) called sharing ecology, provides a radical approach that directly fosters a culture of reduce and reuse among communities and businesses at the same time. Policy instruments that enable implementation of such practices within economic systems can be a new domain for economic systems to promote waste reduction behaviour with minimal environmental impact.

Monitoring Tools

Literatures are increasingly utilising Material Flow Analysis (MFA) toolkit to visualise materials and/or energy flow within systems boundary through Sankey diagrams. This is because maintaining consistent progress towards material circularity requires consistent monitoring of information on material flow. The resulting illustrations are then utilised to identify opportunities for bolstering circularity of materials/energy within production, consumption and WM systems.  For instance, Song et al. (2019) utilises MFA to identify opportunities for development of recycling systems and policies for effectively handling lithium-ion batteries.

Likewise, waste prevention indicators continue to be introduced, developed and proposed within current literature in order to benchmarking progress towards transitioning to close-looped systems. For instance, material flow (MF) indicators are currently being utilised by countries such as Japan, European Union member states and China in order to monitor flow of materials within their national systems boundary. However, literatures such as Cervantes et. al. (2018) and Yano and Sakai (2016) continue to stress on the need for developing standardized and consistent monitoring methods.  Cervantes et. al. (2018) identifies good indicators as those that are flexible, adaptable and credible. Although the Waste-awareness Benchmark indicator sets for cities introduced by Wilson et al. (2015) on behalf of UN-HABITAT as a general set of sustainability indicators is considered a good indicator set, the need for establishing an indicator set that includes quantifications for resource productivity, reuse of materials and effort for progress toward material circularity and resource sufficiency remains.

The aim of the current research is to compare the strategic approach of WA in attaining material circularity with that of Japan for which the review has been utilised as a basic guideline to identify best practices among both approaches. 

1.3.3       Global progress towards material circularity and resource sufficiency

Despite a desperate need for focusing on waste prevention, progress towards waste prevention through material circularity continues to take place in a handful of regions, globally. So, literatures regarding progress towards circular economy and closing the loop are generally focused in either European regions, China or Japan, or all three regions.

The concept of circular economy began in Europe however, the region only introduced its Circular economy package in 2015 (Sakai et al. 2017). The policy design of the European Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) is largely market-based. It includes a balanced mix of mandatory and voluntary policy instruments that is largely arranged to capture market space for exchange of recycled materials in order to reduce resource dependency. Some of its policy instruments include the consumer protection cooperation (CPC) regulation to disclose attempts of greenwashing, eco-design and eco-labelling regulations and, voluntary schemes such as voluntary certification of waste treatment facilities and voluntary pledges for enabling sustainable production and informed consumption (EC 2019). Also, it prioritises products and wastes from plastics, food waste, biomass and bio- related products, critical raw materials and construction and demolition sectors. While the completed version of the action plan contains an all-rounded combination of actions, they have yet to be effectively conceptualised by the member states. As per the action plan, European member states France, Germany and Denmark aim to improve resource productivity while only Netherlands aims at reducing overall use of raw materials within its economy (by 50%) (Pardo and Schweitzer 2018). The slow uptake of the circular economy package within the national framework of member states is the direct result of the lack of top-down implementation approach (Mcdowall et al. 2017). Regardless, waste policies of Europe are considered to be the most effective in driving sustainable consumption and production as per Wang et al. (2018).

On the other hand, Chinese Circular Economy (CE) policies aim towards reducing the overall environmental impact of their rapid urbanisation. The policy framework was introduced in 2009 and is guided by the 3R principle. Likewise, it contains a mix of instruments that drive cleaner production, pollution prevention and waste control (Murray, Skene and Haynes 2017). The rapid implementation of CE policies have been lauded globally and is credited to its top-down approach (Mian et al. 2017). At present, China has commenced pilot projects that have enabled participation of 178 organisational and regional entities (Murray, Skene and Haynes 2017). However, strong policy instruments and strategies that enable resource sufficiency are lacking in both European and Chinese CE policies as per Mcdowall et al. 2017 and Mian et al. 2017.

The Japanese approach to material circularity provides a better example for fostering and maintaining a culture of resource sufficiency. The Sound Material Cycle Society (SMCS) was first introduced in 2000 in order to drive material circularity within societal systems. Currently, the 4th fundamental plan for SMCS is guided mainly by 2Rs (Reduce and Reuse) (Government of Japan 2018). The country’s approach towards material circularity is unlike any other. It underpins its vision to create a sound material cycle society with the traditional philosophy of ‘mottainai’ which practices resource sufficiency. The integration of a cultural tradition that is relatable on an individual level has been utilised to drive a culture of resource sufficiency among the country’s citizens (Silva et al. 2017; Fujii 2006). Moreover, the combination of a thorough national plan, stringent monitoring system and the top-down approach for implementation of the plan adds to the engrained culture of mottainai in annually reducing per capita waste generation rate of the nation. However, Japan’s reliance on incineration plants to recovery energy from mainly municipal wastes undermines its efforts towards a comprehensive circularity of materials. As such, while each region has made considerable progress towards material circularity in an attempt to reduce dependence on virgin raw materials, all are lacking in one way or the other. Regardless, the difference in approach provides with opportunity for nations and regions worldwide, to learn from each other’s progress and failures.

Among the three, waste generation rate of European regions lie at around 500 kg/capita (OECD 2019) while that of Macao, SAR China stands at 616.85 kg/capita (Kaza et al. 2018) while that of Japan is at around 337 kg/capita (OECD 2019). Likewise, recovery rates for industrial wastes in Japan is as high as 98% for metals and 78% for non-metallic minerals (MoE 2018). As such, in context to the research, among the three regions, Japan has been chosen as the reference case study mainly because of its relatively all-rounded approach towards driving its industrial systems and waste-aware society towards resource sufficiency and material circularity.

1.4        Summary

Since its inception in the first industrial revolution, waste management has had a gradual transition towards sustainability. The priority began from collecting wastes and maintaining public sanitation and has currently shifted towards moving away from the linearity of current economic system. Likewise, literature review found nine key drivers that currently influence the performance of existing WMSs and their progress towards material circularity and resource sufficiency. Moreover, the current trends in waste policies, strategies and monitoring tools were identified. Also, upon analysis of global progress towards material circularity, all three regions were found to have their own barriers and opportunities of improvement. Regardless, the difference in approach provide with opportunities for nations and regions worldwide to learn from their progress and failures. Similarly, Japan was chosen as the reference case study for the current research due to its relatively holistic approach in driving a culture of resource sufficiency within industrial systems and communities.

2         Methodology

2.1        Outline

Chapter 3 justifies the undertaking of the research. Section 3.2 discusses the design of the study which includes the purpose of the study, the theoretical framework of the research, research questions that shall be answered in Chapters 5 and 6 and, the source of data collected.

Likewise, Section 3.3 discusses the methodology undertaken to conclude the research and derive anticipated results including the focus areas. And, Section 3.4 discusses the limitations of the study.

2.2        Design of Study

2.2.1       Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to comprehensively analyse strategic and legislative approaches of Japan and Western Australia toward sustainable WM, particularly towards attaining material circularity and resource sufficiency.

The study is bound to analysing policies and strategies that promote and drive waste prevention, reduction and material recyclability within both regional systems.

2.2.2       Theoretical Framework

Firstly, Chapter 1 provides with a summarised background for the conducted research.

Chapter 2 then, provides an overview of sustainable WM, recent key drivers influencing global progress towards sustainable WM and current trends in policies and strategies that enable material circularity and resource sufficiency.

Chapters 3 and 4 provide information regarding the background, key drivers and current approaches towards attaining material circularity for Western Australia and Japan respectively.

Likewise, Chapter 4 provides a brief justification for the each of the steps undertaken to conclude the research.

The two pathways are thus analysed in Chapter 6 where similarities and differences are identified for the background, key drivers and waste policy approaches of Japan and Western Australia.

Finally, Chapter 7 provides with recommendations and concludes the research.

2.2.3       Research questions

This research study aims to examine the strategic approaches of  WA and Japan so as to answer the following questions,

What are the similarity and differences in the background and key drivers leading to the aim of material circularity?

What are the gaps within Western Australian WM strategy, in relation to that of Japan, that may hinder the pathway towards material circularity and resource sufficiency in WA?

How can Western Australian WMSs improve through lessons learnt from the comparative analysis?

2.2.4       Source of Data

Because of the qualitative nature of the research, academic literatures, governmental documents and organisational report were studied in order to gather necessary information.

2.3        Methodology

2.3.1       Comparative Analysis

The research compares and analyses the pathways taken by Japan and Western Australia according to their past backgrounds, enforced policies, implemented strategies and policies in order to achieve material circularity. A comprehensive analysis is conducted for both case studies in order to identify inconsistencies in Western Australian policies and strategic approaches and ultimately identify opportunities for growth and progress towards attaining material circularity and resource sufficiency.

2.3.2       Data collection

The information collected includes a brief history of sustainable WM in both countries, key factors that influence execution of their strategic approaches and detailed analysis of currently implemented policies, strategic plans and programs including their guiding principles.

2.3.3       Focus areas

As mentioned earlier, the analysis will focus on the background, key drivers and currently implemented waste prevention, reduction and diversion policies and strategies plans in addition to monitoring tools.

2.3.4       Limitation

Because the research was conducted by gathering research articles, in order to validate mentioned suggestions and conclusions in Chapter 2, results from other academic literatures were compared wherever possible. Likewise, consultation report (2017) suggests that the information related to wastes in WA may be inaccurate due to the exclusion of stockpiled C&D wastes. However, lack of external literature further increases the unreliability of the data on total C&D wastes generated in WA in 2017/18.


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