Assessing Characteristics of Reverse and Waste Logistics from an Innovation Point of View

Assessing Characteristics of Reverse and Waste Logistics from an Innovation Point of View


R Gevaers, T Vanelslander, University of Antwerp, NL


This paper/article deals with the design/development of a typology for characteristics (or KPI's) of reverse logistics and waste logistics from an innovation point of view.



Logistics are undergoing constant and increasingly rapid changes: when assessing the sector, ecological as well as sustainability issues are more and more taken into account. Firstly, the awareness of the need for sustainable innovative concepts for reverse logistics during and at the end-of-life of products is growing. Secondly, legislation issues (for example the WEEE legislation in the European Union) are increasing the needs and importance of innovative reverse logistics chains and concepts. Thirdly, attention is paid more and more to waste issues summarized in the three R?s: Reduce, re-use and recycle (related to closed-loop issues). In most cases, the reverse part of the supply chain is considered as a ?difficult to manage? part of the supply chain, but one has to admit that the reverse part can also generate significant positive effects/advantages due to extra income and/or cost decreases. Also managing the waste logistics part in ?an appropriate way? can imply extra income and/or cost decreases. The cradle-to-cradle vision on the lifecycle of products can be used as an example of the rising importance of reverse and waste logistics in an ?extended supply? chain with attention to ?closed-loop? flows. As a side remark, one can say that reverse logistics as well as waste logistics are often referred to as ?service logistics?. Hence, the relation with the customers is significantly important.

In the first part of the paper, the two flows (reverse and waste) will be defined and explained in depth. Also the sometimes fuzzy difference between the two will be analyzed. We will furthermore describe and analyze the cradle-to-cradle vision which can be used for a better understanding of the growing reverse and waste markets/chains. Hereafter, a typology will be designed which will make it possible to divide the two flows in ?subflows? which have the same or comparable characteristics. The word ?characteristic? needs to be interpreted as ?a distinguishing feature that can have important effects on the efficiency, cost structure and environmental performance of the reverse and waste part of the supply chain?. These effects can be positive as well as negative. The design of this typology will be based on qualitative data (for example: academic literature, field research, interviews, etc).

In the second part of the paper, the aforementioned typology of reverse and waste logistics will be used to list up the significant characteristics, which can have important effects on efficiency and costs when implementing innovations. We will try to answer the question ?what the characteristics are that companies and governments need to take into account when implementing innovative concepts in the reverse and waste part of the chain for obtaining optimization/higher efficiency, cost reductions and a better environmental performance?. Finally, when assessing the reverse and waste market, several innovative best practices will be mentioned, and the defined characteristics will be applied to these best practices.

As a last part, an overall assessment will be made focusing on the concepts and characteristics which have the highest merit from being analyzed more in further research in detail.


Reverse logistics, waste logistics, innovation, green logistics, characteristics of the supply chain, closed-loop logistics


Association for European Transport