Municipal zero waste methodology : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Management at Massey University, Turitea Campus, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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Massey University
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This research originally undertook an extensive literature review, in order to develop a deeper understanding of how the phenomenon of zero waste interrelates with the alternative sustainability-framed movements responding to the crisis of waste and the failures of conventional waste management theory and practice. This initial work was translated into a series of publications that provide content for the foundational chapters (1. Literature review 2, Background/Context and 3. Methodology) of this thesis and provided the basis for identifying the problem statement, research objectives and hypothesis. A key focus of this research involved examining the critique of the zero waste movement, in particular the extreme assertion that, in a municipal context, zero waste is a chronic failure/impossible/doomed and is a super-mega proposition for which there is no blueprint or methodology. The value-proposition for research addressing this critique was established by examining the real-world New Zealand (zero) waste case-setting where a combination of misinformation, lobbying, and policy capture resulted in an abandonment of zero waste and a consequent regression in KPIs of the prior New Zealand Waste Strategy (NZWS:2002) entitled Towards Zero Waste and a Sustainable New Zealand. The published outputs of this research make the case that zero waste approaches can and should be scientific, practically successful, measurable and evidenced, a good economic investment, socially and culturally beneficial, framed in a continuum of learning and evolution, and democratically popular. Additionally, this research has provided new insights to the extreme scope, challenge, and intensely complex disciplinarity of the waste → zero waste transition spectrum. This has enabled visualising and reinterpreting the significant, but largely unmet interdisciplinary requirement of (zero) waste management, as a critical barrier to progress. Based on a three-stage review of policy analysis in (zero) waste management research, a specific methodology of mixed methods content analysis (formally annotated as MMR HCA-T-MZWM quant + QUAL(quant)) was designed to test and explicate the disputed existence of municipal zero waste methodology (MZWM). Detailed quantitative findings converge in the formation of an extensive hybrid embedded qualitative written narrative result that is the illustrated in four final graphic summary illustrations of the hypothesised MZWM. This Ꝏ infinity – continuum model offers a new conception of dynamic integrated elements and interoperative, interdisciplinary clusters comprising the MZWM. The Ꝏ infinity – continuum MZWM model embodies the disruptive, hyper-aspiration of zero waste in seeking maximum transition into a sustainable circular economy, and in extent and detail appears commensurate with the cited super-wicked complexity of waste issues. The Ꝏ infinity – continuum MZWM model provides a simple, yet meaning-laden graphic, abductive bridge between the UNSDG imperative and zero waste’s innovation seeking and transformational ideals. The MZWM represents a key foundation for the critical next-step opportunity to develop an evaluation framework (ideally as an internationally agreed research framework encompassing further learning and experience) to systematically measure and enhance the performance of future municipal zero waste programmes.
Waste minimization, Refuse and refuse disposal, New Zealand