Authors: Moritz Jäger-Roschko, Moritz Petersen, Maria Besiou
Closed-loop recycling can help reduce the need for virgin resources, contributing to the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. However, the current status quo in plastics recycling is cascading recycling, which typically results in only one additional use of the material before incineration. The current literature debate in operations management about recycling does not consider the quality of the recyclate and the complexity of recycling supply chains, which are leading to a lack of closed-loop recycling in practice. We conducted inductive research in the e-waste plastics recycling industry. We carried out 49 interviews along the entire recycling chain, from waste collection over plastics recycling to electronics manufacturing. Our study shows a need to create a trusted market for recycled plastics. For this, plastics recyclers need to improve the quality and stability of recycled plastics, as well as increase manufacturers' confidence in recycled plastics. Manufacturers need to start using recycled plastic and specify their material requirements to build confidence in recycled plastic. As a second contribution, we identify theories to be used in future research on recycling and suggest elements to be considered in future operational management models to better reflect the reality of recycling chains operating under collective extended producer responsibility schemes with quality constraints.
Moritz Jäger-Roschko is a PhD candidate in the fields of Circular Economy and Supply Chain Management at Kühne Logistics University, supervised by Prof. Dr. Moritz Petersen and Prof. Dr. Maria Besiou. In his research, he studies plastic recycling and information sharing in circular supply chains. His research is part of the CREAToR project funded by the EU research and innovation program Horizon 2020.