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Closing the loop: integrative systems management of waste in food, energy, and water systems


  • Sarah C. Davis

    () (Ohio University)

  • Derek Kauneckis

    (Ohio University)

  • Natalie A. Kruse

    (Ohio University)

  • Kimberley E. Miller

    (Ohio University)

  • Michael Zimmer

    (Ohio University)

  • Geoffrey D. Dabelko

    (Ohio University)


Abstract Modern food, energy, and water (FEW) systems are the product of technologies, techniques, and policies developed to address the needs of a given sector (e.g., energy or agriculture). Wastes from each sector are typically managed separately, and the production systems underlying FEW have traditionally treated pollution and waste as externalities simply diffused into the ambient environment. Integrative management that optimizes resource use presents opportunities for improving the efficiency of FEW systems. This paper explains how FEW systems can be optimized to (1) repurpose or cycle waste products, (2) internalize traditional externalities, and (3) integrate wastes with resource inputs across systems by diverting waste by-products from one system to meet demands of another. It identifies the means for “closing the loop” in production systems. Examples include management of legacy wastes from fossil fuel industries (coal and natural gas) and integrative designs for advanced renewable systems (biogas from waste, bioenergy from CAM plants, and solar). It concludes with a discussion of how studying the governance of such systems can assist in tackling interconnected problems present in FEW systems. New governance arrangements are needed to develop solutions that can align with regulatory frameworks, economics incentive, and policies. Four aspects of governances (property rights, policy design, financing, and scale) emerge as tools to facilitate improved institutional design that stimulates integrative management, technology innovation and deployment, and community development. The conclusion offers a framework through which integrative management of FEW systems can be linked to value chains in closed-loop systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarah C. Davis & Derek Kauneckis & Natalie A. Kruse & Kimberley E. Miller & Michael Zimmer & Geoffrey D. Dabelko, 2016. "Closing the loop: integrative systems management of waste in food, energy, and water systems," Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Springer;Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, vol. 6(1), pages 11-24, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:jenvss:v:6:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1007_s13412-016-0370-0
    DOI: 10.1007/s13412-016-0370-0

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    References listed on IDEAS

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