Using the waste Kuznet's curve to explore regional variation in the decoupling of waste generation and socioeconomic indicators

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 2019, 149 pp. 674 - 686
Issue Date:
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© 2019 Decoupling of resource consumption from economic growth is a key principle in the transition towards a circular economy. This study explores regional variation in the decoupling of waste generation from mean income in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), following the Waste Kuznet's curve (WKC) hypothesis. The WKC hypothesis tests for the existence of a relationship between waste and economic indicators conforming to an inverted-U shape that may indicate decoupling. A geographically and temporally weighted regression (GTWR) model is used to test the WKC hypothesis for municipal waste from 2011 to 2015. We identify municipalities conforming to the WKC hypothesis, and examine the socioeconomic and urban morphological characteristics of these municipalities. Results show that waste policy must be targeted to consider local variability in socioeconomics. Municipalities across rural NSW were found to conform to the WKC over the time frame. WKC-conforming municipalities had higher per-capita rates of waste generation, and lower mean incomes compared to non-conforming municipalities. Ratios of tipping point (global maximum) to mean income for WKC conforming municipalities were estimated between 0.8 and 2, indicating that these municipalities are in stages of relative, rather than absolute, decoupling. This study demonstrates the application of the WKC for examining decoupling, and highlights the importance of considering variations in regional characteristics when assessing the decoupling of waste generation from income. Findings also broadly suggest regionally specific policy making is required for circular economy transitions in NSW.
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