Barriers to Closing Waste Loops in the European Union - Implications for circular economy platforms in waste management

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Information and Service Management (ISM)
The idea of a circular economy (CE) has long been discussed in the European Union (EU) as a solution to environmental unsustainability. Implementation of CE has been limited however. Our research objectives can be summarized as investigating the barriers in the EU waste management supply chain to closing waste loops using digital waste exchange platforms. During the review of literature, two sets of barriers were found to exemplify the current challenges in the waste industry to close waste loops and the obstacles to adopting a digital waste exchange platform. The empirical part of the research consisted of 31 semi-structured interviews with respondents from industry, waste management, end users of waste, platform providers and experts on waste management or CE. The respondents were from across the EU. During the interview process an interview guide was used to steer discussion and obtain qualitative data which were interpreted using the two groups of previously identified barriers. Subsequently a cross analysis was performed between the two sets of barriers to reveal which aspects of the industry had to change to enable the closing of waste loops using a waste exchange platform. It was found that financial barriers were most prominent in the analysis of challenges related to developing circular economies. The current market structure was also seen as having an impact on the pace of industry development. Regarding the adoption of platform, the most significant barriers was the lack of accurate information for waste related materials (standardisation & classification). Furthermore, respondents saw imbalances in the market structure which seemed to favour downstream companies. Lastly, a framework for improved classification of waste was created and emerged as the theoretical contribution of the research. The study emerges as a stepping stone towards future research into operational challenges of adopting industry platforms to coordinate information and materials between ecosystem participants.
Thesis advisor
Kuula, Markku
barriers, circular economy, closed loops, platforms, recovery, recycling, reuse, technology