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Product End-of-Use Management Networks

Final Report Summary - EOUNETWORKS (Product End-of-Use Management Networks)

With short life-cycles and fast changes in technology, more and more products that arrive to their end-of-use stage while retaining economic value and suitable for reuse and recycling. Although theoretically promising, relatively few circular supply loops are self-sustaining in practice. This evidence raises the question of why voluntary economically viable product end-of-use management network of agents that are involved in such activities (i.e. recycler, remanufacturer, consumer, collector, etc.) are not operating on a large scale yet. Therefore, in this research we study how such networks of product end-of-use (EoU) agents emerge and evolve in response to market conditions, regulation, and changes in each other’s corporate strategy. We combine industrial ecology and operations management concepts using agent-based models as a tool to examine environmental and economic performance patterns of each agent and the overall network (i.e. the market), using the example of electronics waste and cell phones specifically. The socio-economic rationale for this research was the need for better understanding how to design product EoU collection and processing networks in order to increase dramatically the economic and environmental efficiency of such systems. This research is valuable to policy makers formulating and revising product EoU regulations and to the different EoU agents looking to gain competitive advantage while complying with regulations. In this research we first studied each agent carefully, how it operates and what are the type of decisions each agent do. We then created a model ontology that defines each agent, its main actions and decisions, etc. Then the model was built and tested with valid data based on multiple resources. Then a serious of simulation outputs that measure the economic and environmental performance of each agents and the entire system were generated. In our model we have four agents including: manufacturer, consumers, recycler, and refurbisher. We examine the flow of phones and how those are collected and then processed. We look at the effect of extended producer responsibility and a business strategy not to be engaged in reuse activities. Finally, we now extend the model to include more Israeli specific data on the consumers and other agents in the game. We administrated several surveys to estimate the amount of electronic waste in Israel, how much of it is stored in people homes, and how much people are willing to pay for the disposal of electronic waste. In the future this data will be further integrated into an extended model.
The IRG grant help the recipient on few levels: 1) the researcher has a tenure track position and leading a new industrial ecology lab in Tel Aviv university and is now engaged in several research projects utilizing complexity and agent modelling approach; 2) to raise additional funds for research both in Israel and in the EU; 3) to advance electronic waste research in Israel; 4) to transfer new knowledge by mentoring master and phd students as well as develop and teach four new courses related to industrial ecology and environmental management to graduate students which were not offered before.
For further details, please contact Dr. Vered Blass, vblass@post.tau.ac.il