Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date


Document Number

Research Paper #2008-4


Recycling and remanufacturing activities are gaining in importance, as a growing population and economy use up and wear out modern products, exhaust landfill capacity, threaten the environment, and discard potentially valuable and increasingly scarce resources. As an example, an estimated five billion pounds of carpet were sent to landfills in 2003 (CARE, 2003). Likewise, Americans discard computers, cell phones, LCDs and other electronic devices at an alarming rate. Estimates range from 100 to 250 million such items each year. As discard volumes rise and as resource scarcity becomes more critical, recycling, re-use, and remanufacturing have begun to take hold at ever more substantial scales. To understand the implications of these activities for economic development and sustainability, new methods of tracking their impacts must be developed. While at first blush it might be assumed that these activities could be modeled as could any other new industry, a number of characteristics peculiar to recycling and remanufacturing complicate the process. This paper enumerates a number of such dimensions of recycling, re-use, and remanufacturing, and lays out a scheme for extending the traditional approach.