The unending waste management challenge - are we at our wits' end?

October 12, 2020

The problem of waste management has become persistent. It is a challenge that is growing in bounds and depths as the world's population surges. Are we at our wits' end?

Waste management would need a radical change. According to Beatrice Obule-Abila's doctoral dissertation at the University of Vaasa, Finland, this change could be achieved through the application of knowledge management tools and approaches in the waste management.

Daily, each of the 7.8 billion people inhabiting Earth generates approximately one kilogram of waste, which translates into 5.8 million metric tons of waste. This is about nineteen super-tankers. The problem is not being reduced. Waste generation is bound to continue to increase as the population and urbanization increases, and so are the challenges associated with managing waste, says Obule-Abila.

The doctoral dissertation by Beatrice Obule-Abila focuses on changing the paradigm of waste management by exploring the adoption of knowledge management framework, developing and deploying more knowledge management tools, systems, and approaches in seeking solutions to the problem of waste: so that waste no longer constitutes a nuisance, but a valuable resource.

Are financial incentives or socio-psychological factors the motive for the recycling of waste?

In developing the knowledge management framework that will spur the change in paradigm, Beatrice Obule-Abila answered several germane questions in her thesis. For example, are financial incentives or socio-psychological factors key drivers in promoting recycling and sustainable waste management?

The survey results affirmed that financial incentives are important in accelerating the recycling of municipal solid waste. It was also established that intrinsic and extrinsic factors related to socio-psychology can stimulate consumers' behavior towards adopting recycling and other methods of managing waste sustainably.

It is illuminating to discover that in Finland, incentivization, particularly financial incentives, plays an indispensable role in promoting sustainable recycling of municipal solid waste. Thus, financial incentives are prerequisites for attaining the European Union recycling target for municipal solid waste in Finland, says Obule-Abila.

The study further revealed that both income-earning and non-income-earning groups of consumers show interest in monetary incentives, as a factor spurring their recycling behavior.

The major driver in the recycling of municipal solid waste is a belief in the benefits of recycling waste while the minor driver for the recycling of waste is relative to its attached financial incentive.

Over all, consumers' behavior for the recycling of municipal solid waste is more driven by socio-psychological factors in Finland.

Knowledge management approach as a prerequisite for sustainable waste management

According to Obule-Abila, the knowledge management bridges the knowledge gaps in waste management through its integration to all the aspects of waste management.

The key outcome of the research - a waste knowledge management conceptual framework - lays the foundation for understanding the linkage and applicability of knowledge management in waste management.

The researcher outlined the various paths through exploration and adoption of knowledge management process towards attaining the various goals of waste management - which includes material recovery, energy generation, and the attainment of social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

This dissertation advances the insight of researchers, waste companies, government, particularly at the municipal levels, and a broad array of stakeholders to visualize the knowledge management tools, systems, and approaches used in the management of waste as the foundation of knowledge management.

The dissertation consists of six publications. Four publications apply literature review and synthesis, and two publications employ survey method.

Public Defence

The public examination of M.Sc. Beatrice Obule-Abila's doctoral dissertation "Knowledge management approach for sustainable waste management: Evolving a conceptual framework" will be held on Wednesday 14 October 2020 at noon.
The public examination will be organized online: (Password: 091232).

The field of dissertation is Industrial Management. Professor Rodrigo Lozano (University of Gävle) will act as an opponent and Professor Petri Helo as a custos.

Obule-Abila, Beatrice (2020) Knowledge management approach for sustainable waste management: Evolving a conceptual framework. Acta Wasaensia 448. Doctoral dissertation. Vaasan yliopisto. University of Vaasa.

Publication pdf:

University of Vaasa

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