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The recovery of products and materials for reuse: The global context of resource management

Duchin, Faye, Levine, Stephen H.
Resources, conservation, and recycling 2019 v.145 pp. 422-447
capital, collaborative management, databases, decentralization, ecologists, economic impact, economists, employment, infrastructure, livelihood, production economics, resource management, Guinea, India, Japan
We propose a framework for evaluating alternative approaches for recovering products and materials from capital goods that are no longer in use. It calls for deepening the existing collaborations between input-output economists and industrial ecologists to develop scenarios for the future and databases to support the analysis of global strategies for resource management. Our formulation offers the endogenous choice among technologies subject to resource constraints to minimize economy-wide use of factors of production in satisfying final demand. The determination is made on the basis of comparative advantage for a single economy and for the global setting. We develop an illustrative database for three regions characterized by different resource profiles for natural resource endowments and for the accumulation of built capital; they are roughly modeled on Japan, Guinea, and India. The material and economic consequences for each region, and for the world as a whole, are then calculated under alternative recovery scenarios. Sharp contrasts in region-specific outcomes are evident, and clear impacts of actions in one region on outcomes in other regions demonstrate the need for a global context. Next steps include making dynamics explicit by incorporating lifetimes of durable goods and infrastructure, varying production duration periods, and resource stock-flow relationships. The final section addresses the corresponding development challenges, in particular those surrounding jobs and livelihoods. These concerns need to inform design priorities for the scale and degree of decentralization of future technological systems, which are readily represented as technological alternatives.