Reverse Logistics and Waste Management

Reverse logistics is a process whereby companies can become more environmentally-efficient through recycling, reusing, and reducing the amount of materials used. A more holistic view of reverse logistics includes reduction of materials in the forward system in such a way that fewer materials flow back, reuse of materials is possible, and recycling is facilitated. A reverse supply chain is the network of activities involved in the reuse, recycling, and final disposal of products and their associated components and materials. The public is only concerned with the aftermath environmental impacts of the products at the end-of-use life.

Global Trends

Waste management legislation in Europe is strong where firms are directed to address recovery and disposal of end-of-life products in an environmentally sound manner. As far as United States is concerned, economic factors focused on resource recovery value have been the main motivating factor.

In the developing world, reverse logistics is characterized with low value addition due to the low reprocessing involved for example from recycled electronics, paper, automobiles, scrap, plastics and food waste. However reverse logistics has not received the desired attention in developing countries and is generally carried out by the unorganized sector for recyclables like paper, plastics and metal.

Reverse logistics in emerging economies is in early stages and depends heavily on third party provider for reverse logistics activity due to shortage of legislation, awareness, and infrastructure. Professional collection, sorting and transportation of end-of-life products are much needed in emerging markets.

Brazilian Model

In 2010, Brazil finalized its National Solid Waste Policy, a law that aims to decrease the total volume of waste produced nationally and increase the sustainability of solid waste management from the local level to the national level. Public, domestic, industrial, mining, forestry, transportation, construction, and health waste are all covered by this policy, and much of the responsibility for paying for or providing management of waste falls to its producers.

Manufacturers, stores, supermarkets, distributors, importers and the retail trade are obliged to implement reverse logistics systems. Under the terms of the law: “Packaging will be manufactured with materials that permit reutilization or recycling”. This is valid for the entire country and acts as a guarantee for companies that reverse logistics will be adopted more rapidly.

Waste Management Bins in Curitiba (Brazil)

While the law has not yet gone into full effect, many cities in Brazil have made significant progress on waste management in recent years. Rio de Janeiro has improved its landfills and its recycling rates. Cities such as São Paulo and Curitiba have increased recycling rates and practices, and their laws helped pave the way for the national mandate.

Conclusions

A well-managed reverse logistics program can result in important cost savings in procurement, disposal, inventory holding and transportation. This may be carried out by the original product manufacturers or by third-party reverse logistics providers. With increased industrialization and globalization, reverse logistics is bound to gain momentum in coming years in the developing countries which will not only lead to economic gains but also protect the environment.

Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of Cleantech Solutions, and an internationally-acclaimed blogger, journalist, consultant, advisor and ecopreneur. His areas of expertise includes waste management, renewable energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection, resource conservation and sustainable development.
Salman is a prolific environmental writer, and has authored more than 300 articles in reputed journals, magazines and websites. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management, sustainability and conservation all over the world.
Salman can be reached on salman@cleantechloops.com.

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2 thoughts on “Reverse Logistics and Waste Management

  1. Dear Salman, thank you for wonderful article, I would like to add just a short comment. On my opinion does not 3R policy gain to real change for it does not helped to reduce the volume of waste generated globally. There are another 3R missing in the picture and these are RECOGNIZE, RECONSIDER and REALIZE followed by the original 3.
    Application of the 6R change the world in reality for the volume of generated waste would decrease significantly.

    • Dear Michael
      Thanks for your kind words. Appreciate your views with which I completely agree. There is a real need to tackle waste problem through a holistic approach which may include the additional 3Rs as mentioned by you.

      Thanks again
      Salman Zafar
      Founder, Cleantech Solutions

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