From management to stewardship: A comparative case study of waste governance in New York City and Seoul metropolitan city

Seulki Lee-Geiller, Gabriela Kütting

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to dense populations and consumerist dynamics, megacities generate a large volume of waste, which has resulted in pressure to develop effective waste management systems. Unlike other environmental issues, previous studies on waste management tend to deal with waste management as a mere public service, overlooking many other actors who are involved in, and responsible for, its life cycle. This study highlights a concept of environmental stewardship referring to actions taken by public entities, private sector, civic organizations, and individual citizens to use and treat resources responsibly. Taking a heuristic approach that uses theory to direct case examination, we conducted a comparative case study through a review of academic literature and policy reports, in order to examine the municipal waste practices of New York City (NYC) and Seoul to explore the relevance of the phenomenon of environmental stewardship in municipal waste governance. The study found that both cities have gradually included various actors in their waste governance and in their move towards environmental stewardship, but that they differ in terms of the extent to which each steward engages and in each city's waste outcomes–i.e., significant civic roles of both in promoting recycling and public awareness, yet unlike Seoul in NYC, minimal public roles and central roles of private sector in waste collection and treatment. Having similar wastes generated, recycling rate in Seoul was over twice that of NYC. This study expands our purview of waste management by integrating the concept of environmental stewardship, which provides a holistic understanding for interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105110
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
StatePublished - Jan 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Economics and Econometrics


  • Environmental stewardship
  • Participatory waste governance
  • Social-ecological-public contexts
  • Solid waste management
  • Urban waste management
  • Waste management

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