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In Waste management & research : the journal of the International Solid Wastes and Public Cleansing Association, ISWA

Policymakers, practitioners, and scholars have long-lauded digital technologies, such as smart waste containers or artificial intelligence for material recognition and robotic automation, as key enablers to more effective and efficient waste management. While these advances promise an increasingly digitalized future for collecting, sorting, and recycling waste material, little is known about the current extent of digitalization by waste management firms. Available studies focus on firms' digitalization intentions, largely neglecting the level of actual adoption of digital technologies, and do not differentiate the level of digitalization alongside different steps of the waste management value chain. Our study reports on a cross-sectional descriptive survey that captures current digitalization efforts and strategies of 130 public and private waste management firms in Germany. We analyze their levels of digitalization along with different steps of the waste management value chain, explore their different objectives, approaches, and transformational measures with regard to digitalization. Our findings reveal that while the perceived importance of digitalization in the waste management sector continues to grow, the actual adoption of advanced digital technologies falls notably behind intentions reported in 2016 and 2017. We explore the reasons for this gap, point out so far largely ignored research opportunities, and derive recommendations for waste management firms and associations.

Borchard Rebecca, Zeiss Roman, Recker Jan


Digitalization, adoption, digital technologies, survey, waste management