Sustainability challenges and enablers in resource recovery industries: A systematic review of the ship-recycling studies and future directions

Anupam Dey, Obuks Ejohwomu, Paul W. Chan

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Resource recovery industries play a significant role in global sustainable development. Although existing reviews have been undertaken on how such sectors address sustainability, these tend not to consider the interconnections among sustainability dimensions in the macro (national/regional, international), meso (industry) and micro (firm/operation) levels of analysis. Taking ship-recycling as a focal resource recovery industry, this systematic literature review of 286 studies provides a holistic synthesis of six sustainability dimensions, producing a taxonomy of three sustainability challenge (environmental, social and economic) and three enabler (law and policy, technology and management) themes. Studies have to date focused on identifying the challenges, typically in a mono-dimensional manner, with less attention paid to developing enabling solutions. Across the challenge dimensions, sustainability is better regarded at the macro and meso levels of analysis, while remaining challenged and less understood at the micro level operations. Thus, the industry in its current state has been argued to face a ‘multi-level sustainability paradox’. Of the enabler themes, the law and policy investigations in ship-recycling predominantly addressed the macro-level issues in analysing the deficiency of current regulatory mechanisms and offering future ones. Conversely, the comparatively scarce studies on developing technological and management enablers have addressed the micro-level issues more to create environmentally and socially sustainable ship-recycling practices. This review concludes with suggestions for future research that considers a systems view to demonstrate how the sustainability challenges and enablers in ship-recycling are interconnected across various dimensions and levels of analysis – and form self-reinforcing vicious cycles which are more readily addressable through management enablers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number129787
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date22 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2021


  • Resource recovery
  • Ship-recycling
  • Sustainability challenges and enablers
  • Systematic review
  • Systems thinking


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