Towards waste minimisation in Aotearoa New Zealand: A realist review and systemic analysis of waste interventions
Waste is a complex environmental and human health problem and demands a comprehensive research approach to both understanding the problem and identifying pathways to effective action in Aotearoa New Zealand. This study moves beyond behaviour change theories towards a social practice perspective for more effective waste minimisation interventions, by combining a realist review using literature and stakeholder interviews, with causal loop diagramming.
Realist review seeks to understand what works for whom, under what conditions and how. The review generated a set of four interlinked programme theory propositions for waste minimisation:
- Raising critical consciousness of a significant proportion of the community
- The effect of physical and online spaces enabling communities to come together around local champions
- The role of local government agencies in the waste system
- Systemic policy making at central government level
Threaded through these propositions was the value of including Māori perspectives and holistic systems thinking.
The qualitative data from the realist review was used to develop a causal loop diagram that illustrated the current waste system, with four sub-systems:
- Critical consciousness and championing
- Waste minimisation delay
- Capitalism influences
Significant impact leverage points identified were raising the critical consciousness of the population, systemic redesign of the system away from waste management and disposal towards waste minimisation, changing the underlying paradigm of the waste system to sustainability, and interfacing with Māori worldviews. These changes will take long-term systemic thinking, courageous leadership and adaptive strategies.