Developing Adequate Communication of Waste Footprints of Products for a Circular Economy—A Stakeholder Consultation.

Relatively few consumers are conscious of the waste generated in the course of producing the goods that they consume, although most are aware of the amount of waste they dispose of. This article reports on a small-scale survey (N = 28) among stakeholders aimed at developing adequate communication of preconsumer waste footprints of consumer goods in the context of the circular economy. Life cycle assessment (LCA) practitioners and consumers assessed five methodological details of an approach for calculating and communicating a product waste footprint (PWF). Most of the respondents expressed that the guidelines described in the proposed PWF methodology are good enough for the purposes of differentiating waste and byproducts, and defining which material flow shall be accounted for. Some LCA practitioners declared that the proposed streamlined method may not be adequate for conveying the environmental significance of waste types. The respondents also expressed that the PWF concept would be primarily useful and/or needed for consumers and government, and in the contexts of improving environmental awareness of consumers, environmental policy making, visualizing waste flows in a circular economy, and improving resource efficiency in industry, and less useful/needed in a business-to-business context. The PWF has been successfully used by diverse stakeholder groups in Sweden mostly to promote sustainable production and consumption across society. A notable example is the ‘invisible waste’ (#invisiblewaste) campaign of the Swedish Waste Management Association (Avfall Sverige). The concerns of the LCA experts have therefore not held true. The symbolic power and parsimony of the PWF concept appears to be effective in sensitizing consumers towards waste issues so that circular economy strategies beyond recycling are possible to be fully realized.

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