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Zero-Waste Management and Sustainable Consumption: A Comprehensive Bibliometric Mapping Analysis

Leslier Valenzuela-Fernández
1,* and
Manuel Escobar-Farfán
Department of Administration, School of Economics and Business, University of Chile, Santiago 8330015, Chile
Department of Administration, Faculty of Administration and Economics, University of Santiago of Chile, Santiago 9170020, Chile
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2022, 14(23), 16269;
Submission received: 31 October 2022 / Revised: 25 November 2022 / Accepted: 2 December 2022 / Published: 6 December 2022


The growth of waste generation is a global problem. Developing effective waste management methods is challenging for companies and the government. This research aims to provide a global perspective regarding scientific research on zero-waste management and sustainable consumption by identifying years of evolution, the most relevant and influential keywords, articles, journals, universities, countries, and authors. This research examines 2534 publications from the Web of Science Core Collection from 2011 to 2021. Numerous bibliometric indices, including the number of publications, the h-index, and citation requirements, have been used as evaluating techniques. Additionally, a relational technique has been developed through graphical maps using the VOS viewer Software. Results show a growing trend in the number of zero-waste management’s publications and citations. Regarding the h-index, the five most relevant journals are the Journal of Cleaner Production, Resources Conservation and Recycling, Waste Management, Waste Management Research, and Sustainability. The most outstanding author is Tsang Dan from Zhejiang University, and the leading university is the Chinese Academy of Science, China. Furthermore, the principal regions and continents are China—Asia, USA—America, and Italy—Europe. The most important keywords are waste management, sustainability, circular economy, and sustainable development. This article is the first quantitative study focused on contributing a complete overview of the progress of zero-waste management and sustainable consumption, providing a collaborative network of researchers for future use in generating knowledge.

1. Introduction

Waste management has become a phenomenon that has changed since, in the past, waste was perceived as a cost with landfilling as a typical management approach, but now there has been growing recognition of its potential value [1]. However, waste is still a significant problem in many countries, despite increased outlays on rational waste management [2]. Hence, changing people’s mentality and pro-environmental concepts is still necessary to develop waste management systems.
In this sense, waste management considers collection, transportation, sorting, treatment, final disposal of waste, and monitoring [3]. In this context, waste hierarchy (prevention, reuse, recycling, recovery, and—in the case of the last option—disposal) is crucial to conserve natural resources and protecting the environment [4]. Therefore, the concept of zero waste approach involves redesigning the resource supply chain, so that end products or derived materials are reused or recycled [1]. In this sense, waste recycling has grown, and a green business strategy can be a challenge and a fruitful opportunity to develop more innovative business models, products, and/or services. Thus, sustainability has become increasingly crucial for the development of society, industry, and scientific research [5,6,7,8], since a global concern is precisely the accelerated consumption of resources that ignores the finite capacity of the planet [8], neglecting consumption and sustainable development.
One of the first widely accepted definitions of sustainability is the “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” [9]. Olawumi and Chan [10] have presented three unified areas of society, the economy, and the environment in a model to define the concept of “sustainable development”. Therefore, sustainability is a multidisciplinary concept that spans industry, economy, agriculture, and consumption [11,12,13]. Viewed from the business perspective, sustainability states the importance of integrating economic, environmental, and social themes in business management [14]. On the other hand, the Circular Economy (CE) is also trending and a concept of great interest to academics and experts, because it is considered an operationalization for businesses to implement the considerably debated notion of sustainable development [15,16,17,18,19]. The circular economy definition is well-known as an alternative to the linear economy, with many different meanings for the other stakeholders of society [20]. One of the most accepted definitions, as conceptualized by Ellen MacArthur Foundation [16], understands CE as an economy that is either restorative or regenerative by its intention and design. This conception leads to the practical extension of CE perspectives, whereby all economic activities—including reuse, remarketing, repair, remanufacturing, and technological updating of products—extend the service lives of items, components, and materials, [16,21] allowing added value to the products and contributing to waste reduction [22].
According to the literature, there are challenges and opportunities for the development of strategies for waste management. Consequently, this research aims to provide an overview of the scientific productivity and trends in zero-waste management, consumption, and/or sustainable development. Although, there are few publications on zero-waste management using bibliometrics indicators, such as the earliest written by Zaman [23] about zero-waste management in cities with 96 publications and the last bibliometric analysis published by Zhang et al. [24] on waste reduction. However, there is no study with the purpose of showing a complete picture considering the ranking of journals, authors, universities, and countries about zero-waste management and consumption and/or sustainable development to analyze the emerging trend during the last decade of research (2011–2021).
The principal objective of this research is to identify and understand the evolution and context of waste management. This article aims to contribute to the literature on developing rankings in the field of zero-waste management using the bibliometric analysis method. A bibliometric analysis is a method for systematically identifying the most relevant academic outputs and major trends [25]. This technique determines the most influential journals, authors, universities, and countries based on the h-index and their interactions through the evolution of published articles, the growth of citation research, the classification of the most cited papers, and bibliographic coupling by using the visualization of similarities viewer software (VOSviewer version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands) for constructing and visualizing bibliometric networks.
This research analyses 2534 publications from the Web of Science Core Collection (WoS) during 2011–2021. The indicators used are total citations (TC), total papers (TP), h-index, and citation thresholds. Additionally, this research includes the bibliographical coupling [26], providing a work with helpful information for academics, students, and managers.
With this scope and objectives in mind, this manuscript is organized as follows: Section 1 presents the introduction of this research, followed by Section 2 with a theoretical framework about the concepts or topics: zero-waste management, sustainable consumption, development, and previous bibliometrics analysis. Section 3 explains the methodological procedure, the sample, and the bibliometric indicators used to perform the analyses. Next, Section 4 indicates the results and discussions about the most influential journals, citations, authors, universities, countries, keywords, and bibliographic couplings. Finally, Section 5 discusses the main conclusions, limitations of the study, and future research in the field of zero-waste management and sustainable consumption and/or sustainable development.

2. Theoretical Framework

2.1. Zero-Waste Management

Waste management is one of the world’s top environmental challenges [27,28,29]. Solid waste is non-hazardous domestic, commercial, municipal, and institutional waste, such as food waste, paper, cardboard, plastics, textiles, glass, and metals [30]. The rapid growth of the world population brings with it the generation of more solid waste [24]. Therefore, implementing policies to manage waste properly is relevant [1,28,31]. Furthermore, some authors point out that a paradigm change in society must be achieved by implementing procedures to manage and treat waste through a circular economy [20,32]. In this sense, waste management is defined as the process of collection, transport, and waste procedure [27]. On the other hand, during the last decade, a visionary concept known as zero-waste management has emerged. A proposal focused on the total reduction in waste through the consumption and cleaner production of sustainable or green products that allow proper recycling and use of natural resources [23,24].
Environmental viability assessment is relevant in this research field. Designing appropriate policies to increase the overall effectiveness of waste management further depends heavily on the sustainability evaluation of waste management [33,34,35]. The notion of sustainability assessment was established via practical applications, and it is now more often linked to the family of impact assessment methods [34,36]. For example, a single indicator strategy is also suggested by economic theory. The main idea behind a sustainability evaluation based on economic theory is that if sustainability were defined in terms of money, it would be simple to include in decision-making [37,38].

2.2. Sustainable Consumption and Development

The terms sustainable development and sustainability are frequently synonymous in academic and scientific environmental sciences literature [10,39]. In this context, the concept of sustainable development is defined as the convergence between three essential pillars: economic development, social equity, and environmental protection [40]. However, this nexus is complex to fulfil since long-term stability must be sought through integration strategies and recognition of the different economic, environmental, and social concerns and needs [41]. According to Ruggerio [39], sustainable development is a topic with a complex academic debate. Since the policies to align the three pillars of sustainability are finite and limited [42].
In this context, sustainable consumption is a recent field of study and discourse that focuses on the social, economic, and environmental issues brought on by the irresponsible use and production of goods and services [43,44]. According to United Nations [45], sustainable consumption has been a global concern. Specifically, it is a process of environmental awareness about consumption and production. It seeks to improve the quality of life by minimizing the use of natural resources and reducing the use of toxic materials and pollution, so as not to endanger future generations’ needs. In this context, it is relevant that there are adequate policies and strategies to manage the impact of air pollution to improve the quality of life and health of human beings [46,47,48,49].
Therefore, sustainable consumption is contextualized as the link between the behavior focused on the consumption of green products and the participation of consumers in environmental decisions [50,51,52]. To modify societal behavior, governments and international organizations attempt to promote and increase awareness of sustainable consumption [44] and control its impact on human health and ecological systems [49,53].

2.3. Bibliometric

Many authors address bibliometric analysis as the quantitative research of previously published investigations [54,55,56,57,58]. For example, research conducted by Pritchard [59] supports the application of mathematics and statistics, and after, this author proposes the term bibliometric. Therefore, bibliometrics analysis is an advantageous approach for developing an overview of a research field. Additionally, identifying trends of journals, authors, and institutions, among others, using diverse bibliometric indicators [60,61].
Numerous techniques are applied to categorize the information within a bibliometric analysis [62]. The most popular approach incorporates the total number of publications or the total number of citations [60]. A very significant indicator is the h-index (Hirsch, 2005), since this indicator considers the productivity (number of publications) and quality (determined as the number of citations in publications) on a single number [63]. From now, the h-index is a suitable indicator for measuring the influence quality within a group of articles.
In academic works, there are previous bibliometric revisions in a wide range of areas, including management [64,65], strategic management [66], economics [61], entrepreneurship [67], innovation [68,69], advertising [70], marketing [71,72], corporate social responsibility [73,74], and retailing [75], among others. Commonly, bibliometric analysis is applied only to classify published content by a specific journal [71,76,77,78,79]. Some authors also add to their other elements, including journals, institutions, countries, and authors’ analysis in different research fields [65,80].

2.4. Bibliometric Research in Waste Management and Sustainable Consumption

Although there are previous bibliometric research studies related to waste management in the context of zero-waste management [23,24], recycling [81], or the circular economy [32,82], this work is the first focused on waste management and sustainable consumption.
For example, in the context of zero-waste management, one of the earliest bibliometric studies on zero-waste management in cities was written by Zaman [23]. However, this research has published only 96 publications covering waste design, valuation, and assessment. However, these findings imply that they offer early advice on waste management to decision-makers and researchers in the future. Recently, a bibliometric analysis published by Zhang et al. [24] noted that multidisciplinary research on waste reduction has significantly increased, with food waste as its primary emphasis.
Another approach has oriented their research on the relationship between the scientific background of waste management in the circular economy context. Ranjbari et al. [32] have pointed out that this is vital to promote waste management strategies and treatments to achieve a paradigm shift from a linear to a circular economy. His analysis indicates that the main trends are bio-based waste management, circular economy transition, electronic waste, municipal solid waste, environmental impacts and lifecycle assessment, plastic waste, and construction and demolition waste management. Subsequently, Negrete-Cardoso et al. [83] have presented an investigation under the same context but focused on a contribution to sustainable development in an era post-COVID-19. Their results indicate five main trends: greenhouse gases, recycling, life cycle, waste treatment, and anaerobic digestion and recovery.

3. Methodology

This study has used bibliometric techniques to collect and analyze the data for ten years (2011–2021). For instance, different bibliometrics indicators for developing rankings were applied, such as h-index, citations, and number of publications [84].

3.1. Measures

To provide an overview of waste management and sustainable consumption-development productivity, this article summarizes the findings considering several bibliometric indicators for the same topic [79,85]. In the case of the evaluative technique, the h-index [86], the total number of citations (TC), and the total number of papers (TP) are the metrics used to rank the most influential journals, authors, institutions, and countries for the research period [79,87]. However, there are two focuses: the first measures the number of publications—which measures productivity, and the second measures the number of citations—which measures popularity and influence [69,88,89]. Specifically, in this research, the authors present several indicators to provide a general picture of rankings [69], identifying the leading journals, authors, universities, and countries in this topic. Currently, the most critical indicator is the Hirsch index (h-index), which considers the average number of citations per article [86]. The h-index is a measurement that integrates productivity and influence (number of citations) in the same indicator [90], hence, defeating the several limitations that other indicators have [86]. For example, an author with an h-index of 18 indicates that 18 publications have received at least 18 citations. Therefore, this research uses the principal indicator h-index and adds the citation/article ratio to obtain the average citations per publication ratio [79].
To extract the data, we use the database from the Web of Science (WoS) Core Collection of Thomson and Reuters, since it contains more than 50 million publications in 15,000 journals, including documents: articles, reviews, letters, and notes. The selection of documents on waste management and consumption and sustainable development was carried out as follows (Table 1 sample and process).

3.2. Sample and Process

The data and research techniques used in this study are described in this section (Table 1). This research has selected the Web of Science Core Collection database. We chose this database because it compiles scientific publications with the highest importance and is the primary factor when making academic decisions [91].
The research protocol is explained in five stages; (1) the research categories used were: Environmental Sciences + Environmental Studies + Business + Economics to examine scientific knowledge in this field. (2) The keywords defined were: “waste management*” or “zero waste*” and “sustainable consumption*” or “sustainable development”. (3) This work used the procedure of Merigó, Gil-Lafuente, and Yager [79]; that is, only the categories Article Review, Letter, and Note were included in this manuscript. (4) With this goal, this research included publications in 1 of the 25 most influential journals, authors, articles, universities, and countries. (5) This research examines scientific publications for the 2011–2021 period. Thus, 2534 publications with 54.253 citations were incorporated from the WoS database on 7 October 2022.
Additionally, a relational technique was employed through bibliographic mapping. Specifically, bibliographic coupling [92] and co-occurrence of author keywords [71,93] were utilized. Bibliographic coupling is the performance of two papers citing the same third document exactly [71]. The work uses the VOSviewer (version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands) software to develop a visual mapping of the bibliographic data [26]. The software collects the information and figures in graphical maps using different bibliometric methods: co-citation [94], bibliographic coupling [92], and co-occurrence of keywords [95].

4. Results and Discussion

4.1. General Structure of Publication and Citation

According to the Web of Science database, 2534 papers have been published on zero-waste management and sustainable consumption, only considering articles, reviews, letters, and notes. During the last decade, the growth of publications related to this area was exponential (Figure 1). In more detail, from 2011 to 2014, the number of published articles remained stable. However, since 2015, the increase has been drastic, standing out with greater emphasis during 2019–2021, with 54.61% of the total publications. This evolution demonstrates the significance of this topic in contemporary literature.
Regarding the total number of citations received, the WoS database shows that between 2011 and 2021, the 2534 articles received 54,253 citations, with a ratio of 21.41 citations per article. Figure 2 shows that the percentage of citations increased dramatically between 2020 and 2021, reaching 60.97% of all citations.
Table 2 examines the general citation structure of this research topic from 2011 to 2021. It can be seen that only 3 articles are in the upper section of citations (more than 501 citations). In contrast, most papers have obtained between 1 and 50 citations because recent articles need more time to reach relevance and scope.

4.2. Keywords

VOSviewer (version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands) finds 6989 keywords for the topic from the 2534 articles that are connected to it. However, in this assessment and standardization, only 50 keywords have attained at least 19 repetitions (Table 3). Therefore, the amount was rectified, and the keywords were divided into five groups based on similarity. The scientific mapping of the co-occurrence analysis of author keywords is shown in Figure 3 and Figure 4.
According to the VOSviewer (version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands) findings, the three most relevant clusters are red, yellow, and blue (Figure 3). In the red cluster, the most used keywords are waste management, sustainability, and sustainable development, with 301, 261, and 255 occurrences, respectively. This group of articles is grouped by the direct relationship between waste management and sustainable development, in how changes in environmental behavior have modified the behavior of individuals when making decisions with a sustainable approach. In the case of the yellow cluster, the circular economy concept is the most influential, with 255 repetitions. This group focuses on articles highlighting the importance of a sustainable and friendly economy with society and the economy in how new environmental policies and strategies of society and institutions contribute to a more environmentally friendly world. Finally, the most relevant term in the blue cluster is life cycle assessment, with 130 occurrences. This group of articles focuses on the systematic analysis and evaluation of the cycle of life in the face of environmental impact, focusing specifically on the stages of waste disposal and environmental impact.
Additionally, VOSviewer (version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands) indicates chronologically which are the most current research trends. For example, according to Figure 4, the direct and strong relationship between the circular economy and sustainable development goals presents new challenges for environmental studies in recent years. For instance, the studies focused on absorption capabilities related to the organizational ability to innovate in processes that acquire, assimilate, transform, and explore environmental knowledge [96].

4.3. Leading Most Cited Papers

Another interesting aspect is analyzing the most cited and influential papers on Zero-Waste Management and Sustainable consumption during the last decade. This indicator shows an article’s contribution to the research approach [79]. However, it may happen that the most cited article is not necessarily the most influential [97]. There is a possibility that a new investigation with strong potential has been published recently, but it needs time to be a consolidated reference [79]. As shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2, it can be seen that during the last decade of production, there were 2534 documents with 54,253 citations in the WoS database.
Table 4 presents the ranking of the top 25 most cited papers. The findings reveal that Kirchherr, Reike, and Hekkert wrote the most referenced article with 1298 citations [20], followed by an article written by Papargyropoulou, Lozano, Steinberger, Wright, and Ujang with 520 citations [98]. Both papers accumulate 3.35% of the total citations.
Based on these results, it can be suggested that both pieces of research stand out for their importance and influence. On the other hand, when considering the highest ratio of average citations per year, the situation changed, since two articles published during the last few years stand out. The paper with the best rate is 324.50 citations per year, written by Kirchherr, Reike, and Hekkert [20], followed by Ferronato and Torretta with 143.50 citations per year [99]. Additionally, it is observed that 8 of the 25 most influential articles of the last decade have been published in the Journal of Cleaner Production [98,100,101,102,103,104,105,106].
The bibliographic coupling method performs a second analysis of the most cited articles. For this analysis, documents with at least 150 citations have been considered in VOSviewer (version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands). As a result, 50 papers have been classified and grouped into 5 clusters (Figure 5). In addition, these articles have been grouped concerning their content similarity in keywords, titles, and abstracts. The article by Kirchherr, Reike, and Hekkert is the first of the red cluster’s 19 publications [20]. The most significant piece in the green cluster, which consists of 9 papers, is Al-Oqla and Sapuan [102]. The most notable article of the eight investigations in the blue cluster was written by Papargyropoulou, Lozano, Steinberger, Wright, and Ujang [98]. In the instance of the yellow cluster, which consists of five articles, Ferronato and Torretta’s work is the most often mentioned [99]. Finally, the research by Mourad [122], which comprises just two publications, sits at the top of the purple cluster.

4.4. Leading Journal

When analyzing the most influential journals, it is possible to evaluate the impact and preference according to the number of articles published, total citations, and indexing [123]. According to the WoS database, 2534 articles have been published in 269 journals. Table 5 shows the top 25 influential journals on zero-waste management and sustainable consumption articles. Specifically, the Journal of Cleaner Production, which has 443 articles and 15,573 citations, is the most influential journal—followed by Resources Conservation and Recycling, with 302 papers and 11,619 citations. Both journals account for 50.12% of citations and 29.40% of published articles between 2011 and 2021. In addition, both publications are part of Elsevier and have a quartile 1 (Q1) impact factor.
Figure 6 shows a map based on bibliographic coupling on the most relevant journals from 2011 to 2021. This map is helpful to know which journals cite and collaborate with each other in their publications. It can be noted that the journals are grouped according to their category, journal impact factor (JIF), and quartile. The minimum of documents per journal was established on 15 articles for this analysis. As a result, 26 journals meet this requirement and are grouped into 4 clusters (Figure 6). From each cluster, the journal with the strongest influence is the Journal of Cleaner Production (green cluster), Resources Conservation and Recycling (red cluster), Waste Management (blue cluster), and Journal of Industrial Ecology (yellow cluster).

4.5. Leading Authors

According to the Web of Science database, 8568 authors in the 2534 articles were obtained and evaluated. Table 6 shows the most productive authors (all publications that have participated as the principal author or co-author are considered). The ranking describes the affiliation country, total number of articles and citations, and H-index reached until 2021. The order is according to h-Index. In the event of a tie, the number of articles has been applied.
Table 6 indicates that the average h-index is 7.16. The author with the highest indicator is Daniel Tsang (h-index = 11), followed by Chi Sun Poon and Yong Gend with the same ratio (h-index = 10). In turn, these 3 authors are the 3 with the highest number of publications, 15, 13, and 10, respectively. The author with the highest number of citations is Yong Geng, with 10 publications and 1068 citations, followed by Vicenzo Torretta, with 543 citations.
An additional method of analyzing the author is through bibliographic coupling. This analysis is helpful in structuring the research collaboration networks [124]. Figure 7 shows a scientific mapping by author bibliographic coupling. VOSviewer (version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands) was used to produce a map that reveals the structure of the most influential authors. The results illustrate the number and relationships of references the analyzed articles have in common with authors who have participated in at least 6 publications and obtained at least 40 citations. As a result, 5 clusters of authors have been created (28 authors in total). According to the author’s analysis, the articles with the highest link strength were written by collaborative group leaders Vicenzo Torretta and Ferronato Navarro (Green cluster). In addition, the leaders of each cluster are Tsang (Red cluster), Ruben Aldaco and Jinhui Li (Yellow cluster), Ming-Lang Tseng (Blue cluster), and Neven Duic (Purple cluster).

4.6. Leading Universities Affiliation

Universities play a crucial role in generating, promoting, and disseminating knowledge. As a result, it is vital to examine the essential institutions worldwide that have contributed to the theoretical and empirical literature in the discipline field being studied across time [85].
According to the Web of Science database, 2756 institutions have contributed at least 1 article on zero-waste management and sustainable consumption studies. However, the results reveal more affiliations than the number of papers because some publications have been written by a group of researchers affiliated with different institutions. Table 7 shows the most productive universities in this thematic approach according to the h-index (H). It can be observed that the Chinese Academy of Sciences (China), whose h-index is the highest in the ranking, is followed by Hong Kong Polytechnic University (China). In the case of the number of citations obtained, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (China) leads with 1852 citations in 67 papers, followed by Wageningen University Research (Netherlands) with 1455 citations in 21 papers.
On the other hand, a relational analysis has been developed for those institutions with more than fourteen associated articles through the VOSviewer (version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands) software [125]. As a result, the research institutions have been grouped into three clusters (Figure 8). This map helps us know which universities collaborate and create knowledge together. According to the results, the Chinese Academy of Sciences is the principal institution in the green cluster, which comprises nine institutes (China). Hong Kong Polytechnic University (China) leads the red cluster of ten institutions, and Tsinghua University oversees the blue cluster of seven institutions (China). Therefore, the results can affirm that Chinese institutions are at the forefront of the current research on zero-waste management and sustainable consumption.

4.7. Leading Regions

Previous studies have indicated that geographic distribution allows for measuring the research location’s concentration or diversification [126]. For example, according to WoS records, there are 2576 affiliations in 115 countries or regions on 5 continents (Figure 9). Therefore, it is suggested that zero-waste management and sustainable consumption is a topic that attracts the attention of researchers from different locations. Still, it is not possible to consider a diversified area worldwide.
Table 8 is provided concerning geographical construction by country. The results indicated that only 20 of 115 countries (17.39%) had published 1 article, 39 countries had published between 2 and 10 articles, and 56 countries had written 11 articles (48.70%). There is a concentration of scientific publications in this research approach. For example, Table 8 shows that the top 10 countries have 1985 out of 2576 affiliations of articles published (77.05%). In more detail, the most productive nation is China, with 521 articles associated, followed by the United States (252 associations) and England (202 affiliations).
Now we will focus on the collaboration network of countries. Nations have analyzed at least 40 associated articles through a bibliographic coupling. The VOSviewer (version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands) software shows the grouping of the 25 countries into 3 clusters (Figure 10). The top countries in the red cluster are China, the United States in the green cluster, and England in the blue cluster.

5. Conclusions

Bibliometric studies provide great potential for contextualizing and exploring past, present, and future research trends. It is clearly observed that research on zero-waste management and sustainable consumption has had a growing interest in scientific research during the last decade. There is evidence of an exponential increase in the number of publications (Figure 1) and the number of citations (Figure 2) during the last few years.
As explained above, the keywords are focused on the circular economy and sustainable development (Table 3). As zero-waste management, it has positioned itself as a critical element in the field of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. In turn, the strengthening of research trends focused on recycling, production, and disposal of waste is evidenced, causing a paradigm shift at the level of society and organization.
It can be concluded that there is a direct relationship between the most cited articles (Table 4) and the most influential journals in the area of zero-waste management and sustainable consumption (Table 5). In more detail, when considering the most influential articles during the last decade, 8 out of 10 papers are cited in the Journal of Cleaner of Production or Resources Conservation and Recycling, top 1 and top 2, respectively (Table 5). Therefore, our results show that the most influential journals concentrate most citations and published articles in this field of research.
Daniel Tsang, Chi Sun Poon, and Yong Geng, all from Chinese universities, are among the most notable authors, according to the number of publications and citations (Table 6). Moreover, this group of authors all make the most significant contributions to this field of study. Lastly, China has had the most significant impact on and production of zero-waste management and sustainable consumption research during the last decade (Table 8). Moreover, this is evident in the authors and universities that provide the most remarkable contributions (Table 6 and Table 7).
This bibliometric analysis finds that researchers in zero-waste management and sustainable consumption have increased their research exponentially in recent years. For this reason, this article provides a broad notion concerning this theme. We are considering variables such as the most influential journals, the authors who publish the most articles, and universities and countries that concentrate on the transcendental asides. Variables that had not previously been considered in this research context. Additionally, this study proposes a review of the most notable themes in recent years through bibliometric maps. In addition, this research hopes to contribute to academics and professionals in the area of environmental sciences and management in guiding and encouraging the development of disciplines connected to waste management and sustainable consumption (Figure 3 and Figure 4).

5.1. Implications

The theoretical implications refer to the contribution to the environmental sciences, specifically with the description and contextualization of the main journals, universities, authors, and geographical areas that present the highest productivity and importance. In turn, the most relevant publications in the last decade are indicated to provide future researchers with a robust theoretical basis for their research.
Additionally, our study’s results provide substantial evidence in favor of the theory advanced in previous research on waste management and the phenomena of sustainable consumption. The practical implication is focused on the practical management of contextualization of the literature review about waste management and sustainable consumption. This research also helps to understand better the implications of waste management by introducing the concept to the economy circular. For example, the results are an opportunity for companies and governments to identify and promote strategies to reduce air pollution and control residues.

5.2. Limitations and Future Research

Despite the research’s contributions, some limitations of this bibliometric study should be noted and taken into account in future investigations. First, the results correspond to 31 December 2021; however, these results are dynamic and susceptible to variations in the future. This means that in two or three years, the results can be significantly modified. Second, only publications from the Web of Science Collection database were included in the sample. Future studies should include more than one database in their selection, since additional papers may have been published in different databases. Another limitation is the search restrictions. Only articles, notes, and reviews in the context of environmental studies, environmental science, management, and business were selected in this study. In future research, the study should be extended to other areas of knowledge related to zero-waste management and sustainable consumption. As a result, this article should be considered a guide for academics, researchers, government, and managers on sustainability and environmental studies.
Finally, the value and impact of the article when it is analyzed must be considered. It is not the same as publishing a paper in a journal in Q1 as in Q4. In other words, despite using the same database, publications do not have the same amount of influence on the literature. To avoid papers without double-blind peer review in future research, it is essential to use search criteria in indexing. Furthermore, another limitation is the failure to include articles that have just been published or deal with emerging topics. Therefore, it is crucial to consider the most recent literature.

Author Contributions

L.V.-F.: project administration, abstract, introduction, conceptualization, writing—original theoretical framework, data collection and curation, methodology, analysis, results, validation, discussion and conclusions, writing—review and editing and references. M.E.-F.: conceptualization, data collection, writing—original theoretical framework, analysis, results, validation, writing—review and editing, and references. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


No specific funding has been attributed to this research.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Data availability can be requested by writing to the corresponding author of this publication.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interest or personal relationship that could have influenced the work reported in this paper.


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Figure 1. Evolution of published papers.
Figure 1. Evolution of published papers.
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Figure 2. Evolution of citation research.
Figure 2. Evolution of citation research.
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Figure 3. Co-occurrence of author keywords.
Figure 3. Co-occurrence of author keywords.
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Figure 4. Evolution of co-occurrence of author keywords.
Figure 4. Evolution of co-occurrence of author keywords.
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Figure 5. Bibliographic coupling of most cited papers.
Figure 5. Bibliographic coupling of most cited papers.
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Figure 6. Bibliographic coupling of journals.
Figure 6. Bibliographic coupling of journals.
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Figure 7. Bibliographic coupling of authors.
Figure 7. Bibliographic coupling of authors.
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Figure 8. Bibliographic coupling of institutions.
Figure 8. Bibliographic coupling of institutions.
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Figure 9. Map of affiliated researchers.
Figure 9. Map of affiliated researchers.
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Figure 10. Bibliographic coupling of regions.
Figure 10. Bibliographic coupling of regions.
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Table 1. Research protocol.
Table 1. Research protocol.
DatabaseWeb of Science (WoS) Core Collection
Title, Abstract, Keywords((TS = (“waste management*”)) OR (TS = (“zero waste*”)) AND (TS = (“sustainable consumption*”)) OR (TS = (“sustainable development*”)))
Document TypesArticles + Review + Letter + Note.
Area of investigationEnvironmental Sciences + Environmental Studies + Business + Economics
Source: Own elaboration based on WoS database.
Table 2. General citation structure.
Table 2. General citation structure.
Numbers of CitationsTP% ofTC% ofTC/TP
More than 1000 citations10.04%12972.39%1297.00
501–999 citations20.08%10291.90%514.50
101–500 citations803.17%13,52824.94%169.10
51–100 citations1746.89%11,96922.06%68.79
11–50 citations90635.90%21,16439.01%23.36
1–10 citations111244.06%52669.71%4.74
No citations2499.87%00.00%0.00
Total articles2534100.00%54,253100.00%
Source: Own elaboration based on WoS database (2022). Note: TP = Total number of papers; TC = Total number of citations; TC/TP = Average Citations per Article.
Table 3. Top 50 keywords.
Table 3. Top 50 keywords.
1waste management30133926reverse logistics2726
2sustainability26126627sustainable waste management2624
3circular economy25534128environmental impact2634
4sustainable development22920729material flow analysis2537
6life cycle assessment13017131waste-to-energy2438
7food waste898432construction and demolition waste2431
8municipal solid waste8711133biomass2426
9solid waste management687234incineration2342
10industrial ecology618135environmental sustainability2319
11sustainable development goals504836cleaner production2329
12developing countries498337sustainable consumption2217
14anaerobic digestion466839resource efficiency2233
16solid waste414741environment2220
17biogas385742energy recovery2241
18e-waste364543system dynamics2119
19climate change353544organic waste2131
20wastewater treatment331945biochar2110
22industrial symbiosis335047India2022
23resource recovery324448environmental management2022
24energy293649zero waste1933
Source: Own elaboration based on VOSviewer (version 1.6.18, Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University, The Netherlands). Note: R = Ranking; O = occurrence; TLS = total link strength.
Table 4. Ranking of the most cited papers.
Table 4. Ranking of the most cited papers.
RName ArticleAuthorsJournalYearTCCPY
1Conceptualizing the circular economy: An analysis of 114 definitions [20]Kirchherr, J; Reike, D and Hekkert, MResources Conservation and Recycling20171298324.50
2The food waste hierarchy as a framework for the management of food surplus and food waste [98]Papargyropoulou, E; Lozano, R; (…); bin Ujang, Z,Journal of Cleaner Production201452074.29
3A review of the circular economy in China: moving from rhetoric to implementation [100]Su, B; Heshmati, A; (…); Yu, XMJournal of Cleaner Production201350963.63
4Sustainable management of coffee industry by-products and value addition-A review [107]Murthy, PS and Naidu, MMResources Conservation and Recycling201240845.33
5Waste Mismanagement in Developing Countries: A Review of Global Issues [99]Ferronato, N and Torretta, VInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health2019287143.50
6How do scholars approach the circular economy? A systematic literature review [101]Merli, R; Preziosi, M and Acampora, AJournal of Cleaner Production2018311103.67
7Natural fiber reinforced polymer composites in industrial applications: feasibility of date palm fibers for sustainable automotive industry [102]Al-Oqla, FM and Sapuan, SMJournal of Cleaner Production201436952.71
8The circular economy: New or Refurbished as CE 3.0?—Exploring Controversies in the Conceptualization of the Circular Economy through a Focus on History and Resource Value Retention Options [108]Reike, D; Vermeulen, WJV and Witjes, SResources Conservation and Recycling201829297.33
9Consumer-Related Food Waste: Causes and Potential for Action [109]Aschemann-Witzel, J; de Hooge, I; (…); Oostindjer, MSustainability201531252.00
10Drivers of food waste and their implications for sustainable policy development [110]Thyberg, KL and Tonjes, DJResources Conservation and Recycling201630661.20
11Sustainable supply chain network design: An optimization-oriented review [111]Eskandarpour, M; Dejax, P; (…); Peton, OOmega-International Journal of Management Science201533355.50
12The Relevance of Circular Economy Practices to the Sustainable Development Goals [112]Schroeder, P; Anggraeni, K and Weber, UJournal of Industrial Ecology2019248124.00
13Green supply chain initiatives among certified companies in Malaysia and environmental sustainability: Investigating the outcomes [113]Eltayeb, TK; Zailani, S and Ramayah, TResources Conservation and Recycling201131231.20
14Acid mine drainage: Prevention, treatment options, and resource recovery: A review [103]Kefeni, KK; Msagati, TAM and Mamba, BBJournal of Cleaner Production201727468.50
15Sewage sludge disposal strategies for sustainable development [114]Kacprzak, M; Neczaj, E; (…); Singh, BREnvironmental Research201728671.50
16Sustainability of using composting and vermicomposting technologies for organic solid waste biotransformation: recent overview, greenhouse gases emissions and economic analysis [104]Lim, SL; Lee, LH and Wu, TYJournal of Cleaner Production201627154.20
17Solid waste management in European countries: A review of systems analysis techniques [115]Pires, A; Martinho, G and Chang, NBJournal of Environmental Management201128528.50
18Towards a more Circular Economy: Proposing a framework linking sustainable public procurement and sustainable business models [116]Witjes, S and Lozano, RResources Conservation and Recycling201624949.80
19A literature review and perspectives in reverse logistics [117]Agrawal, S; Singh, RK and Murtaza, QResources Conservation and Recycling201525943.17
20The role of life cycle assessment in supporting sustainable agri-food systems: A review of the challenges [105]Notarnicola, B; Sala, S; (…); Sonesson, UJournal of Cleaner Production201723157.75
21A review on technological options of waste to energy for effective management of municipal solid waste [118]Kumar, A and Samadder, SRWaste Management201721152.75
22The crucial role of Waste-to-Energy technologies in enhanced landfill mining: a technology review [106]Bosmans, A; Vanderreydt, I; (…); Helsen, LJournal of Cleaner Production201324430.50
23Circular Economy Policies in China and Europe [119]McDowall, W; Geng, Y; (…); Domenech, TJournal of Industrial Ecology201721654.00
24Utilization of agricultural and forest industry waste and residues in natural fiber-polymer composites: A review [120]Vaisanen, T; Haapala, A; (…); Tomppo, LWaste Management201621843.60
25Missing Food, Missing Data? A Critical Review of Global Food Losses and Food Waste Data [121]Xue, L; Liu, G; (…); Cheng, SKEnvironmental Science and Technology201719448.50
Source: Own elaboration based on WoS Basadate (2022). TC = Total citations in WoS; CPY = Citations per Year in WoS.
Table 5. Most influential journals.
Table 5. Most influential journals.
1Journal of Cleaner ProductionElsevier11.0711.01Q144315,57335.15825589073
2Resources Conservation and RecyclingElsevier13.7113.54Q130211,61938.47711427060
3Waste ManagementElsevier8.819.41Q1208611429.39211263743
4Waste Management ResearchSAGE4.434.27Q2173225713.051141325
6Journal of Environmental ManagementElsevier8.915.54Q174152220.57115723
7Science of the Total EnvironmentElsevier10.7510.23Q17799512.92003921
8Journal of Hazardous MaterialsElsevier14.2212.98Q14597321.62032419
9Journal of Industrial EcologyWiley Online Library7.207.94Q144130429.64215517
10Journal of Material Cycles and Waste ManagementSpringer3.573.45Q35274514.33000816
11Waste and Biomass ValorizationSpringer3.443.57Q34157113.93002616
12Environmental Science and Pollution ResearchElsevier5.195.05Q2584447.66001315
13Environmental TechnologyTaylor and Francis3.473.18Q3423468.24000212
14Clean Technologies and Environmental PolicySpringer4.703.98Q22642216.23011312
16Environmental Science and TechnologyACS Publications11.3512.15Q11654934.31011412
17International Journal of Environmental Research and Public HealthMDPI4.614.79Q22056328.15102111
18Sustainable Production and ConsumptionElsevier8.928.42Q11617611.00000211
19Bioenergy ResearchSpringer3.853.49Q21718510.88000010
20Business Strategy and The EnvironmentWiley Online Library10.8011.60Q11418613.29000310
21Ecological IndicatorsElsevier6.266.64Q11419513.93000310
22Management of Environmental QualityEmerald---291475.0700019
23Environmental Technology InnovationElsevier7.757.37Q116764.7500009
24Water Science and TechnologyMDPI2.432.52Q3161569.7500108
25Environmental Science-Water Research TechnologyRoyal Society of Chemistry5.816.02Q2141198.5000027
Source: Own elaboration based on WoS Basadate (2022). Note: R = Ranking; IF = Impact Factor, IF5 = 5-Year Journal Impact Factor; Q = Quartile in WoS; TP = Total number of papers; TC = Total number of citations; TC/TP = average citations per paper; H = H-index.
Table 6. Leading authors.
Table 6. Leading authors.
RAuthorInstitution *TPTCTC/TA>200>100>50>25H
1Tsang, DanielZhejiang University1527718.47000311
2Poon, Chi SunHong Kong Polytechnic University1338629.69003310
3Geng, YongShandong University101068106.80202210
4Torretta, VincenzoUniversity of Insubria1854330.1710019
5Ferronato NavarroUniversity of Insubria1649631.0010018
6Wang, YueSouthwest University, China1217514.5800128
7Tseng, Ming-LangDe La Salle University1122620.5500208
8Tanikawa, HirokiFujita Health University812315.3800018
9Singh, AmolIndian Institute of Management Rohtak1322517.3100307
10Wang, ChaoSouthern University of Science and Technology1212410.3300017
11Portillo, MarceloUniversidad Mayor de San Andres1019019.0000107
12Kumar, AtulIndian Institute of Technology System934838.6710037
13Li, JinhuiTsinghua University940344.7801137
14Ok, Yong SikKorea University910311.4400107
15Duic, NevenUniversity of Zagreb715822.5700307
16Lizarazu, EdithUniversidad Mayor de San Andres710014.2900017
17Klemes, JiriZhejiang University817722.1310016
18Liu, YiJiangxi University of Finance and Economics812315.3800116
19Zhang, YongSoutheast University—China811914.8800026
20Fujii, MinoruNational Institute for Environmental Studies715622.2900306
21Li, YanShandong University710515.0000026
22Li, XinHunan University719327.5700216
23Singh, SeemaJoint BioEnergy Institute925728.5601115
24Aldaco, RubenUniversidad de Cantabria817321.6300125
25Margallo, MariaUniversidad de Cantabria817321.6300125
Source: Own elaboration based on WoS database (2022). Note R = Ranking; TA = Total number of articles; TC = Total number of citations; TC/TA = Average Citations per Article. H = H-index. * This study considers the last affiliation of the author according to the WoS database.
Table 7. Ranking of most productive affiliation.
Table 7. Ranking of most productive affiliation.
1Chinese Academy of SciencesChina67185227.64116725
2Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityChina3398729.91033521
3Indian Institute of Technology System IIT SystemIndia42100723.98113718
4Shanghai Jiao Tong UniversityChina2983428.76103617
5Tsinghua UniversityChina3679021.94013516
6Wageningen University ResearchThe Netherlands21145569.29244215
7Council of Scientific Industrial Research CSIR India2788432.74123214
8Beijing Normal UniversityChina2050125.05012414
9State University System of FloridaUnited States1890650.33123514
10Ghent UniversityBelgium1769640.94032214
11University of LondonEngland2377833.83113513
12Shenzhen UniversityChina1867637.56015313
13National Institute for Environmental Studies JapanJapan1749128.88010413
14National Institute of Technology NIT SystemNamibia2348020.87022212
15Universidade de Sao PauloBrazil2136217.24010312
16Delft University of TechnologyThe Netherlands1638524.06002312
17Ku LeuvenBelgium1865636.44121311
18Tongji UniversityChina171478.65000111
19University of California SystemUnited States1833318.50010110
20Universiti MalayaMalaysia1737021.76002310
21University of InsubriaItaly2054527.2510119
22Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueFrance1758834.5911029
23Universiti Kebangsaan MalaysiaMalaysia1721712.7600119
24Egyptian Knowledge Bank EKBEgypt201065.3000008
25University of LeedsEngland181407.7700007
Source: Own elaboration based on WoS database (2022). Note TP = total number of papers related to the institutions; TC = total citations; TC/TP = average citations per article; H = H-index.
Table 8. Leading regions.
Table 8. Leading regions.
2United StatesAmerica252623324.73210243845
24South KoreaAsia40124931.23113519
Source: Own elaboration based on WoS database (2022). Note TA = number of articles associated; TC = Total citations; TC/TA = average citations per article; H = H-index.
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Valenzuela-Fernández, L.; Escobar-Farfán, M. Zero-Waste Management and Sustainable Consumption: A Comprehensive Bibliometric Mapping Analysis. Sustainability 2022, 14, 16269.

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Valenzuela-Fernández L, Escobar-Farfán M. Zero-Waste Management and Sustainable Consumption: A Comprehensive Bibliometric Mapping Analysis. Sustainability. 2022; 14(23):16269.

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Valenzuela-Fernández, Leslier, and Manuel Escobar-Farfán. 2022. "Zero-Waste Management and Sustainable Consumption: A Comprehensive Bibliometric Mapping Analysis" Sustainability 14, no. 23: 16269.

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