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A comprehensive review of the development of zero waste management: lessons learned and guidelines

Zero waste is a visionary concept for confronting waste problems in our society. The idea is being developed and implemented in various sectors including waste management and treatment, mining, manufacturing, and urban development. The zero waste concept has been embraced by policymakers because it stimulates sustainable production and consumption, optimum recycling and resource recovery. Professionals in waste management systems, however, perceive and apply it in different ways. This study aims to conceptualize zero waste development based on a critical review of available academic journal publications. Very few studies have been found in the domains of zero waste design, assessment and evaluation that have examined production, and sustainable consumption. This study reveals that the scope of the zero waste studies is diverse, and a zero waste concept is constantly developing through various programmes, plans, policies and strategies. The findings of this review study suggest that the zero waste programmes are applied in many countries without any holistic zero waste strategy. The study emphasizes that countries might be able to achieve zero waste goals by developing a national zero waste strategy and by integrating and promoting zero waste initiatives (in communities and industry) through waste management policy. This article presents a critical review of the major studies conducted by researchers on zero waste in the last decades. Based on the review findings the study concludes that zero waste concept has been applied widely in different phases of production and waste management systems. The findings of the study assist to identify priority areas of zero waste strategy and to develop national zero waste guidelines. Thus, this study can be useful to policy and decision makers in developing the evidence-based zero waste guidelines.