Evaluating localism in the management of post-consumer plastic bottles in Honolulu, Hawai'i: Perspectives from industrial ecology and political ecology

Joo Young Park, Clare Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Citations (Scopus)


Localism or regionalization has become a popular topic in urban design, but recent critics raise the question of whether the local or regional scale is most desirable for industrial ecosystems. As a way to explore the claim that localized metabolism is more sustainable, this study examines the costs and benefits of two differentially scaled strategies for the management of post-consumer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles originating in the city of Honolulu, Hawai'i: local incineration and trans-continental recycling. We first estimate total environmental impacts of two options using life cycle assessment, and then disaggregate them into local versus non-local impacts to examine the spatial distribution of costs and benefits. We further assess the environmental justification for localized waste management in relation to the broader socio-economic motivations that underlie the way that plastics are managed in Honolulu. In doing so we assess the scale at which waste management is optimized from an environmental standpoint as well as the non-environmental considerations such as security and safety that influence the politics of scale involved in urban metabolic design. By illustrating the trade-offs between a local versus global metabolic pathway for plastic waste, the results from our Honolulu case study are globally relevant for communities interested in sustainable urban design and in particular urban waste management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-306
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2015 May 1
Externally publishedYes



  • Hawaii
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Localism
  • Polyethylene terephthalate bottles
  • Urban metabolism
  • Waste management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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