Constraints leading to system-level lock-ins—the case of electronic waste management in the circular economy

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Abstract

This study aims to systematically go through the various factors that prevent the implementation and diffusion of new closed-loop solutions and, thus, the transformation towards a circular economy. These factors are studied in the context of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) management. WEEE management offers an interesting context to study this, as technologies and political pressures, as well as a business potential for more efficient material recovery, exist. The study follows an embedded single case design based on interviews with actors in the WEEE management system. While the individual constraints may hinder the uptake of advanced recycling solutions, the interactions between these constraints seem to have an enforcing effect and lead to the formation of system-level lock-ins. This study identified three system-level lock-ins, the national extended producer responsibility scheme, techno-economic issues, and tensions in the supply chain, which impede the adoptation of innovations and the consequent transformation of the WEEE management system. Understanding how these constraints interact is essential for any effort to unlock the system and support the circular economy transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129029
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume322
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Case study
  • Circular economy
  • Constraints
  • Lock-ins
  • WEEE management

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