Business models and sustainable plastic management: A systematic review of the literature

Hanna Dijkstra*, Pieter van Beukering, Roy Brouwer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This study reviews the scientific literature for business models contributing to sustainable plastic management and suggests avenues for future research. We define sustainable plastic management (SPM) as any technique along the waste hierarchy seeking to minimize the environmental damage of plastic material. Limited cases were found during the literature review, whereas many more SPM business models exist in practice, signaling a research gap. Forty-four scientifically documented business models were identified and analyzed on the basis of business model component, sustainability, level of waste hierarchy and sustainable business model archetype. Our results suggest that business models focus on recycling and creating value from waste, as well as the development of bioplastic. Few cases qualified as triple bottom line businesses, as many reported environmental and economic, but not social, benefits. Circular economy business models were found in a quarter of all cases. Finally, we present a synthesis of the barriers and opportunities for sustainable plastic management by the private sector. Drivers include maintaining competitive advantage, accessing green customers, collaboration with stakeholders, and achieving efficiency improvements. Barriers frequently mentioned were high costs, complexity of new systems, supply chain lock-in and low customer buy-in. Further research should expand the scale of SPM research, identify the enabling conditions for sustainable plastic management, and determine environmental impact.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120967
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date7 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2020


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