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Reverse logistics in household recycling and waste systems: a symbiosis perspective

Emy Ezura A Jalil (School of Technology Management and Logistics, Universiti Utara Malaysia, Sintok, Malaysia.)
David B. Grant (Logistics Institute, University of Hull, Hull, UK)
John D Nicholson (Hull University Business School, University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom.)
Pauline Deutz (Department of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences, University of Hull, Hull, United Kingdom.)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 14 March 2016




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the proposition that there is a symbiosis effect for exchanges between household waste recycling systems (HWRSs) and household recycling behaviour (HRB) within the reverse logistics (RL) discourse.


The paper contains empirical findings from a two phase, multi-method approach comprising consecutive inductive and deductive investigations. The qualitative and quantitative data underpin exploratory and explanatory findings which broaden and deepen the understanding of this phenomenon.


Analysis identified significant interactions between situational and personal factors, specifically demographic factors, affecting HRB with key factors identified as engagement, convenience, availability and accessibility.

Research limitations/implications

Findings confirm the existence of a symbiosis effect between situational and personal factors and inform current research trends in the environmental sciences, behavioural and logistics literature, particularly identifying consumers as being an important pivot point between forward and RL flows.

Practical implications

Findings should inform RL-HWRSs design by municipalities looking to more effectively manage MSW and enhance recycling and sustainability. RL practitioners should introduce systems to support recovery of MSW in sympathy with communication and education initiatives to affect HRB and should also appreciate a symbiosis effect in the design of HWRSs.

Social implications

The social implications of improved recycling performances in municipalities are profound. Even incremental improvements in the performance of HWRSs can lead to enhanced sustainability through higher recycling rates, reduced diversion of MSW to landfill, decreases in pollution levels, reduced carbon footprints and reduction in depletion of scarce natural resources.


The paper marks an early contribution to the study of symbiosis in HWRSs and HRB pertaining to RL. Findings are offered that identify the key situational and personal factors that interact to affect enhanced HWRSs and also offer insights above those available in current multi-disciplinary literature that has largely examined such factors in isolation. Conclusions offer the possibility of an epistemological bridge between the social and natural sciences.



A Jalil, E.E., Grant, D.B., Nicholson, J.D. and Deutz, P. (2016), "Reverse logistics in household recycling and waste systems: a symbiosis perspective", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 245-258.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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