Towards a Sustainable Resource Management : A Broader Systems Approach to Product Design and Waste Management

Abstract: Rapid economic growth, urbanisation and increasing population have caused (materially intensive) resource consumption to increase, and consequently the release of large amounts of waste to the environment. Numerous technological and operational approaches to resource management have been introduced throughout the system of production, consumption and waste management. This thesis concludes that the current, rather isolated, efforts to influence different systems for waste management, waste reduction and resource management are indeed not sufficient from a long-term sustainability perspective. To manage resources and waste sustainably, resource management requires a more systems-oriented approach, which addresses the root causes of the problems.This thesis identifies and discusses different sustainability challenges facing the global waste management system. To address these challenges a broader systems approach to waste management is proposed. The thesis argues that there is a need to recognise the multitudes of perspectives, cross-scale dynamics and actors’ interactions at various levels. The barriers and limitations to a systems-oriented management of waste generation including design, production, consumption and waste management are discussed. The study utilises soft systems methodology (by Checkland (2000)) within which different concepts and methods are utilised to present a worldwide view on resource dynamics and develop a research heuristic for sustainable resource management. The study emphasises the need for a shared vision among various actors across the chain of production and consumption. To assist better planning, the need for improved databases on resource use and wastes is emphasised.