The terms “economic development” and “sustainability” are involved, unclear, and diffuse, and it is necessary to clarify the point of view that this study defends. For Slomski et al. [1
] (p. 280), “countries, today considered developed, have degraded their rivers and decimated their flora and fauna”; however, today it is these same countries that advocate sustainable development. The environmental issue is the current agenda of European countries that, in the past, placed a high value on economic stability with no concern for environmental degradation. In this context, this study considers that externalities resulting from the effects caused by productive activity must be the responsibility of all (industry, commerce, consumers, and the state), and defends sustainability as the “capacity to satisfy the needs of the present in an equal way, without compromising the possibilities of survival and prosperity of future generations” [11
] (p. 117).
Environmental degradation has been one of the significant challenges of so-called environmental economics. The studies by Mcneill [12
] and Gao et al. [13
] discuss the current economic development model and, in it, the issues related to sustainability as being the model that derives from production chains in order to develop themselves and adopt nature protection measures, considering its constant renewal with “concerns that range from the extraction of the raw material to the final destination of the product or its packaging, in other words, to be economically viable, being socially ethical and fair” [1
] (p. 280). In this way, productive chains with the ability to preserve the environment to ensure the rights of present and future generations consider the interdependence between economic development and quality of life, since there is no way to talk about economic development without having ecological sustainability as an assumption [14
The problems caused to the environment stem from the indiscriminate use of natural resources. However, there is a perception that, if these sources of wealth are not preserved, the survival of future generations may be compromised. This reality made the economic theory rethink its concept. Thus, there is an urgent need to redirect the entire logic of economic thought towards long-term planning that contemplates social and environmental aspects as part of the strategy of human existence [15
]. From this point of view, sustainability directly influences the companies´ behavior, which faces economic and social and environmental problems [1
]. From this perspective, the concept of sustainability, defended by this study, concerns: “A production chain that, to develop itself, does not degrade the environment but considers its sustainability, and the possibility of its constant renewal. Has concerns that range from the extraction of the raw material to the final destination of the product or its packaging, in other words, to be economically viable, being socially ethical and fair” [1
] (p. 280).
In the scope of discussions on sustainability, the topic of urban solid waste plays a fundamental role, primarily due to the volume produced, the dangerousness of some waste, the problems related to inadequate management, and the lack of areas for the final disposal of such waste. Due to this set of aspects, solid waste has gained space on the agendas of companies, researches, governments, and legislature. Slomski et al. [1
] (p. 276) warn of the fact that, for the production of goods and services, companies must use resources and strategies that consider sustainability; in this way, they must consider the entire life cycle of the product and, in this context, “understand where their industrial costs start and end.”
2.1. An Overview of Urban Solid Waste in Brazil
The Brazilian Standard—NBR 10,004 (a standard of Brazilian Association of Technical Standards or ABNT in Portuguese, which establishes the criteria solid waste classification in terms of its potential risks to the environment and human health) [18
], classifies solid waste according to solid and semi-solid states, resulting from the community’s industrial, domestic, hospital, commercial, agricultural, services, and sweeping activities. Included in this definition are sludges from water treatment systems, those generated in pollution control equipment and installations, as well as certain liquids whose particularities make their launch into the public sewage system or bodies of water unfeasible, or requirements for this are technically and economically unviable solutions given the best available technology.
This definition is in line with what the NSWP—Law 12,305 of 2010 [3
]—proposes in its article 3, item XVI, which defines solid waste as a material, substance, object or good discarded, resulting from human activities in society, whose final destination proceeded, proposed to proceed or is obliged to proceed, in solid or semi-solid states, as well as gases contained in containers and liquids whose particularities make its discharge into the public sewage system or bodies of water unfeasible, or requirements for this are technically or economically unviable solutions because of the best available technology. This characterization highlights the need for attention and specialized care for all objects and/or bodies when disposing of them. The standard classifies solid waste into two classes: Class I—Hazardous and Class II, represented by two subclasses: A—Non-inert and B—Inert.
Among the types of existing solid waste, there is urban waste, composed of household waste and those from urban cleaning. Thus, urban solid waste can be more broadly defined as being a complex set of solid waste generated in homes and commercial establishments and service providers, as well as those resulting from cleaning activities (sweeping, weeding, pruning) of public roads and places, except health services, hazardous industrial wastes, and the waste from ports and airports, due to the risks of soil contamination and improper handling, if they are discharged in “dumps” [19
The search for solutions capable of containing the disproportionate increase in waste accumulated in the environment has led government agencies to establish rules for its identification and storage, giving rise to techniques for handling this waste. These rules include collection, transportation, packaging, treatment, and final disposal actions. Among the possible classifications of these wastes, the most adequate to the objective pursued here is that which considers the moment in which it is generated. There are two categories: that of post-industrial waste, generated as burr of the production processes, either as maintenance scraps or as obsolescence of machinery and equipment, and the category of a post-consumption waste result of the disposal of leftovers when consuming goods or services. Household waste is an example of the latter category.
Current sources such as the annual report entitled “Panorama of Solid Waste in Brazil”, published by the Brazilian Association of Public Cleaning and Special Waste Companies, demonstrated that, in 2017, 78.4 million tons of solid waste were produced in Brazil [21
]. However, of this collected amount, 29 million tons were deposited in controlled landfills and dumps distributed in 3352 cities. This report also shows that the urban cleaning market generated around 337 thousand jobs and mobilized BRL 28.5 billion. The cost of these services consumed approximately BRL 10.37 per inhabitant/month from public coffers [21
] (p. 14). According to Adeodato Filho [22
], short-term measures are adopted by public managers because of the problem of solid waste to the detriment of prioritizing more assertive decision-making in the solid waste management system in cities. Such decisions are due to the cost of selective collection and the installation of sorting sheds. However, disregarded are the environmental/social benefits and the economic potential of solid waste. This perspective makes use of immediate measures: when considering only the ratio between revenues and expenses, it ends up hampering an eco-friendly and potentially beneficial practice for the natural resources, the productive sector, and public costs.
For the Business Commitment to Recycling (Compromisso Empresarial para Reciclagem—CEMPRE) [23
], different factors interfere in the generation of waste, from consumer preferences and habits and customs, seasonal and climatic variations, demographic density, specific laws, and regulations. In accordance with these factors, research data carried out by the Institute for Applied Economic Research [24
] indicate that the composition of household waste in Brazil, in 2010, presents the following gravimetric composition: (a) organic matter (51.4%); (b) plastic (13.5%); (c) paper/cardboard/long-life packages (13.1%); (d) glass (2.4%); (e) ferrous metals (2.3%); (f) aluminum (0.6%); and (g) others (16.7%). Of these materials, paper/cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum, and ferrous material stand out most, adding up to 31.9%. Calderoni [25
] warns about the economic, environmental, and social potential of recycling urban waste and highlights the viability of this economic activity by estimating the value of recyclable waste inappropriately wasted/disposed in dumps and sanitary landfills at over one billion reais. With this approach, Freitas and Damasio [26
] calculated the revenue that the State of Bahia failed to obtain in 2003, due to not treating urban waste, at more than 700 million. On the other hand, the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) estimated the potential benefits of recycling in Brazil at BRL 8 billion annually [24
2.2. National Solid Waste Policy in Brazil (NSWP)
The sustainability of production systems requires manufacturers to design products with the principles of sustainability, such as reducing waste generation, reusing and recycling, where reverse logistics is a way of adding value to the product in an increasingly competitive market [27
]. In its legal framework, Brazil is ahead of other countries by establishing that the ecologically balanced environment is a constitutional right and, because it is in everyday use by the people, it is the duty of the Public Power and the community to defend and preserve it (article 225 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution) [28
]. As a result of this article, the duty arises to create infra-constitutional instruments and tools that deal with the means to achieve the objective of preservation, as well as determining who are the parties responsible for repairing any damage caused to the environment.
In this framework, the National Environment Policy (Law 6938/1981) [29
] deals with the social and legal responsibilities of all parties responsible for preserving, improving, and restoring environmental quality, in a way that guarantees right living conditions. Following this same logical line, article 4, item VII, of Law 6938/81, determines “the imposition, on the polluter and the predator, of the obligation to recover and compensate the damages caused, and to the user, of contribution for the use of environmental resources for economic purposes” [29
], which, like article 225 of the Brazilian Federal Constitution [28
], provides for the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
The National Solid Waste Policy (NSWP), instituted by Law 12,305/2010 [3
], has principles, objectives, instruments, guidelines, goals and actions that seek to ensure greater efficiency in the disposal and recycling of waste. Its importance lies in post-consumer accountability directly related to the idea of environmental preservation throughout the product’s life cycle. Thus, one of the main instruments of application of the regulatory mark is reverse logistics, since its actions, procedures, and means seek to “enable the collection and return of solid waste to the business sector, for reuse, in its cycle or other productive cycles, or other eco-friendly final destination” (article 3, item XII, Law 12,305/2010) [3
]. According to Leite, Reverse Logistics is “the business logistics area that plans, operates and controls the flow and corresponding logistical information, from the return of post-sale and post-consumer goods to the business cycle or the production cycle, through reverse distribution channels, adding the value of different kinds: economic, ecological, legal, logistical, of corporate image, among others” [30
] (pp. 16–17).
These measures for returning the product to its origins have become a legal requirement that requires importers, distributors, manufacturers, or traders of specific products (recyclable products) to compose a logistical structure. This structure provides the return of the generated products to their starting point so that it can be reused in the production cycle (raw material), for the generation of another product or, only, for proper disposal [27
]. When studying solid waste management in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, Castro Neto and Guimarães [31
] observed that domestic waste management was a problem arising from legal inaccuracy in the Brazilian Constitutional Law when it did not specify the responsibility of federative entities. This gap in the legislation was filled by article 10 of Law 12,305/2010 [3
]. According to the Law, the Federal District and the cities are responsible for managing solid waste generated in their territories. NSWP [3
] has become an essential instrument for harmonizing economic development and environmental preservation, and its guidelines encourage a sustainable, productive system guided by integrated management and accountability in post-consumption.
2.3. Urban Solid Waste Management and Administration Practices
According to NSWP [3
], item X of article 3, solid waste management and administration practices are considered the set of actions exercised, directly or indirectly, in the stages of eco-friendly collecting, transporting, transshipment, treatment, final disposal of solid waste and final eco-friendly disposal of residues, following with the municipal plan for the integrated management of solid waste or with the plan for the management of solid waste, required under this law. Additionally, this same law highlights, using article 9, as a priority in the management and administration of solid waste, the observation of the items in the following order: “non-generation, reduction, reuse, recycling, treatment of solid waste and final eco-friendly disposal of residues” [3
]. Araujo and Altro [32
] (p. 312) say that it will be necessary to adopt integrated management practices for “society, collectors and collectors’ cooperatives, generators and consumers of waste, in addition to universities, which are proponents of methodologies and disseminators of knowledge about the challenges at hand.”
Regarding the elements of solid waste management best practices listed by Law 12,305/2010 [3
], environmental management has essential tools that must be used according to the municipal plan’s instructions for integrated management of solid waste or any management plan for solid waste. From then on, this waste follows a path until its cycle is renewed or extinguished. Regardless of its “destination”, the waste begins its trajectory from the collection. Depending on how this material is carried out, it will be reintroduced or not to the productive environment. After being collected, both the waste from the selective collection and the conventional collection are transported to sanitary landfills, open dumps, or, in the best case, are taken to the solid waste treatment centers. According to Campos [33
], waste recovery activities are carried out in these places, such as “receiving and storage, separation of bulky, hazardous, food wastes, pressing, baling, marketing, disposal of waste (fuel residues without market value) such as Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) or for final disposal in sanitary landfill” [33
] (p. 34).
Based on item X, article 3, of the Law 12,305/2010 [3
], the types of treatment and final destination that can be applied to household waste are discussed. According to Souto and Povinelli [34
], the treatment of solid waste comprises the use of tools that allow the volume of waste to stabilize or even be reduced, thus contributing to increase the usable space of landfills.
These abovementioned waste utilization techniques can be inserted in some industrial and agricultural production processes or even in the energy generation process. Upon reaching the waste sorting plants, the waste is subjected to separating recyclable and non-recyclable materials. The so-called recyclable materials are subsequently reintroduced into the production system and contribute to the generation of new products. In parallel, non-recyclable ones, mostly organic matter, are submitted to recovery processes, such as, for example, composting and RDF manufacturing [33
], pp. 53–54).
The waste separation process may include from the most primitive form, which is the manual collecting or separation, to modern equipment with various levels of technology. Even so, whether the plants have little or much technology in their processes, manual sorting is essential at some stage of the process [33
] (p. 37). After sorting the materials, other operational resources can be applied to promote their use. In this logic, recycling is one of the ways to use it.
According to Law 12,305/2010, in its item XIV of article 3 [3
], recycling is understood as the process of transformation of solid waste that involves changing its physical, physical-chemical or biological properties, with a view of transforming it into inputs or new products, subject to the conditions and standards established by the competent bodies of the National Environment System (NES) and, if applicable, the National Health Surveillance System (NHSS) and the Unified Agricultural Health Care System (UAHCS) [3
]. Recycling is defined by Souto and Povinelli [34
] (p. 584) as “the reuse of waste in some production process.” According to these authors, the type of material to be recycled determines whether it will be crushed or ground. This procedure facilitates the process of transport, storage, and processing of these materials. As benefits and importance, Besen et al. [36
] (p. 259) highlight that “the selective collection and recycling of recyclable waste are activities that contribute to urban sustainability with impacts on environmental and human health.”
Composting, on the other hand, uses solid organic waste, being defined by Bidone and Povinelli [37
] as an aerobic biological treatment process that transforms organic waste into a stabilized material, which results in what is called compound or humus. In addition to recycling and composting, the HSW can also be subjected to the incineration process. This process is classified according to the type of system used, which is defined based on the occurrence or not of preliminary treatment. Gripp [38
] (p. 9) classifies incineration into two types: I—Direct Burning Incineration and II—Refuse-Derived Fuel Incineration. The difference between them is that, in the direct burning incineration, the residues do not undergo any kind of prior separation before being sent to the combustion chamber.
In contrast, in the incineration by RDF, the residues are previously separated, and only that fraction said without economic value for recycling is crushed and transformed into RDF. With the generation of heat from the burning of waste, it is possible to carry out energy recycling. According to Souto and Povinelli: “Energy recycling can be direct or indirect. In direct recycling, the residues are used directly as the energy source and may go through some simple treatment processes such as fragmentation or grinding. In indirect recycling, waste is converted, chemically or biologically, into other materials, which are used as a source of energy” [34
] (p. 583).
With the adoption of eco-friendly measures, such as the sorting and reuse of solid waste, the productive sector, the society, and the cities can collaborate to minimize problems with the exhaustion of the landfill’s space, the presence of waste collectors in the dumps and the scarcity of areas available for the creation of other landfills. On the other hand, are instigated benefits such as job creation, social inclusion of waste collectors, and mitigation of impacts on the environment.
2.4. Internalizing Private Costs Credit (IPCC): An Alternative Way to Reverse Logistics
The commercialization of IPCC is an essential tool for the industry to meet the requirements of the NSWP. The legal mark obliges the production chains to implement reverse logistics (RL) systems to proceed with the eco-friendly destination of products and packaging in post-consumption. That is, to treat and correctly dispose of the solid waste generated because of its economic activity. The purchase of IPCC serves as an alternative to the reverse logistics that the industry should proceed with. According to the NSWP [3
] proposal, the industry must take responsibility for the generated solid waste, proceeding with the treatment and the correct final destination of its products and/or packaging in post-consumption. However, it has been noticed that the public authorities are responsible for the collection and final destination of solid waste generated in the cities, maximizing their public spending and minimizing the costs of the industry that, although generating waste, maximizes its profits, since it does not include the treatment and final destination of what it produces [39
For the industry, setting up a reverse logistics chain is exceptionally costly, not to mention that it would be a different field. This gap, which the public authorities fill today and impacts their budget, should be the industry´s responsibility to adopt measures to meet what the NSWP determines. These ideas are corroborated by Slomski et al. [40
], as they consider the creation of a Waste Final Disposal Industry (WFDI), remunerated by companies when they acquire IPCC. The WFDI was conceived by the authors Slomski et al. [1
] and allowed the industry to acquire credits that replace the reverse logistics operation of the solid waste produced by it. The authors classify the IPCC as a way of internalizing business costs and define them as: “a title to be sold, in a competitive market, whose objective is to facilitate the process of collection and final disposal of all household waste in cities, with the full participation of all the companies that contributed to its generation, either by packaging or by the product itself. The IPCC will be issued by concessionaires accredited in the waste final destination chain, according to the volume of daily production” [1
] (p. 285).
This alternative to reverse logistics with the acquisition of IPCC assumes that development and sustainability impose environmental management concepts and best practices that consider the entire life cycle of the product, from its design to its disposal. This model of solid waste management is defended by NSWP [3
], which requires the production chain to proceed with reverse logistics, with this instrument being the flagship of the regulatory mark. In this way, the Cost Accounting must internalize the expenses with the treatment and final destination of the product and/or packaging to the production costs and/or with the acquisition of the IPCC.
In the current scenario, most of the Brazilian industry has not yet proceeded to reverse logistics and, thus, does not internalize the costs of treatment of the packaging and/or product to the costs of production. However, industries need to “internalize as a cost of production the collection and disposal of what is their responsibility, to become sustainable” [1
] (p. 286). From this point of view, Slomski et al. [1
] present a proposal for the internalization of IPCC, in which a cost of at least BRL 1.00 is attributed to each kilogram of material used with the potential to generate solid waste. The authors exemplify the following: in monthly production of soft drinks with the use of tons of PET bottles, with the acquisition of 1000 IPCC at BRL 1.00, we have the following situations:
First case (Without IPCC-current): Finished Product Cost (BRL 100,000) + Internalizing Private Cost Credits (BRL 0.00) = Total Finished Product Cost (BRL 100,000). Second case (With IPCC-future): Finished Product Cost (BRL 100,000) + Internalizing Private Cost Credits (BRL 1000.00) = Total Finished Product Cost (BRL 101,000) [1
] (p. 286).
These examples show that the industry would be held responsible and the WFDI would make it feasible, so that the total cost of the product would be considered, in which “the cost of the IPCC would increase the cost of the finished product and the entire production process would be under the responsibility of the industry, without producing negative externalities” [1
] (p. 286), in which the industry would not need to implement reverse logistics processes. However, “all production costs will be internalized, without the industry having to create instruments to collect their packaging” [1
] (p. 286).
In line with the abovementioned, this research highlights the application of the models proposed by Braz [41
] and Slomski et al. [1
] on environmental management practices, in which the reverse logistics of the product includes the collection, treatment, reuse and eco-friendly disposal of the product at the end of its useful life. The authors Slomski et al. [2
] (p. 85) proved the viability of this logic and reinforced the need to implement the WFDI, as the industries “must dedicate themselves to the development of their products, leaving to the WFDI the process of reverse logistics and eco-friendly disposal of products at the end of their useful life.”