Abstract

There is increasing global interest in the application of circular economy as a tool for enabling the decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation. Despite this growing interest, there is a lack of in-depth insight about the quantified potential benefits that value-retention processes (VRPs) – direct reuse, repair, refurbishment and remanufacturing – can contribute to circular economy and improved resource efficiency. In this assessment, product-level production impacts are bridged with economy-level insights about market, regulatory, technological and infrastructure conditions, to demonstrate and quantify the essential role of value-retention processes within circular economies. Three representative products were selected from each of three industrial sectors known to engage in VRPs (Industrial digital printers, vehicle parts, and heavy-duty and off-road equipment), and select environmental and economic impacts were assessed at the material- and product-levels. Results indicate that, where appropriately employed, the adoption of VRPs can lead to significant reduction of negative environmental impact and positive economic opportunity at the product- and process-levels. Further, these insights were assessed in the context of diverse sample industrial economies around the world (Brazil, China, Germany, and United States of America) to better understand the significance of varied systemic conditions and barriers to VRPs in the realization of circular economy objectives. In aggregate, this work highlights the need for policy-makers and decision-makers to incorporate systems-perspectives and integrated environmental and technology policy approaches into their circular economy strategies. Industry must embrace a product-system design approach that considers both forward- and reverse-logistics, as well as a new value-proposition based in maximized customer utility, multiple product service lives, and results-oriented business models. In parallel, governments of both industrialized and non-industrialized economies must look for opportunities to further enable, enhance, optimize, and improve the efficiency of accepted value-retention practices if they are to optimize their potential for value-retention and the pursuit of circular economy.

Publication Date

5-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Student Type

Graduate

Degree Name

Sustainability (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)

Advisor

Nabil Nasr

Advisor/Committee Member

Thomas Trabold

Campus

RIT – Main Campus

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