Solid Waste and the Circular Economy: A Global Analysis of Waste Treatment and Waste Footprints

13 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2017

See all articles by Alexandre Tisserant

Alexandre Tisserant

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Stefan Pauliuk

University of Freiburg

Stefano Merciai

Aalborg University

Jannick H. Schmidt

Leiden University

Jacob Fry

The University of Sydney

Richard Wood

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Arnold Tukker

Leiden University - Centre of Environmental Science (CML)

Date Written: June 2017

Abstract

Detailed and comprehensive accounts of waste generation and treatment form the quantitative basis of designing and assessing policy instruments for a circular economy (CE). We present a harmonized multiregional solid waste account, covering 48 world regions, 11 types of solid waste, and 12 waste treatment processes for the year 2007. The account is part of the physical layer of EXIOBASE v2, a multiregional supply and use table. EXIOBASE v2 was used to build a waste‐input‐output model of the world economy to quantify the solid waste footprint of national consumption. The global amount of recorded solid waste generated in 2007 was approximately 3.2 Gt (gigatonnes1), of which 1 Gt was recycled or reused, 0.7 Gt was incinerated, gasified, composted, or used as aggregates, and 1.5 Gt was landfilled. Patterns of waste generation differ across countries, but a significant potential for closing material cycles exists in both high‐ and low‐income countries. The European Union (EU), for example, needs to increase recycling by approximately 100 megatonnes per year (Mt/yr) and reduce landfilling by approximately 35 Mt/yr by 2030 to meet the targets set by the Action Plan for the Circular Economy. Solid waste footprints are strongly coupled with affluence, with income elasticities of around 1.3 for recycled waste, 2.2 for recovery waste, and 1.5 for landfilled waste, respectively. The EXIOBASE v2 solid waste account is based on statistics of recorded waste flows and therefore likely to underestimate actual waste flows.

Keywords: circular economy, consumption‐based accounting, industrial ecology, multiregional input‐output, municipal solid waste, waste input‐output

Suggested Citation

Tisserant, Alexandre and Pauliuk, Stefan and Merciai, Stefano and Schmidt, Jannick H. and Fry, Jacob and Wood, Richard and Tukker, Arnold, Solid Waste and the Circular Economy: A Global Analysis of Waste Treatment and Waste Footprints (June 2017). Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 21, Issue 3, pp. 628-640, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2985188 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12562

Alexandre Tisserant (Contact Author)

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) ( email )

Trondheim NO-7491
Norway

Stefan Pauliuk

University of Freiburg ( email )

Fahnenbergplatz
Freiburg, D-79085
Germany

Stefano Merciai

Aalborg University ( email )

Fredrik Bajers Vej 7E
Aalborg, DK-9220
Denmark

Jannick H. Schmidt

Leiden University

Postbus 9500
Leiden, 2300 RA
Netherlands

Jacob Fry

The University of Sydney ( email )

University of Sydney
Sydney, NC NSW 2006
Australia

Richard Wood

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) ( email )

Trondheim NO-7491
Norway

Arnold Tukker

Leiden University - Centre of Environmental Science (CML)

2300 RA Leiden
Netherlands

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