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October 18, 2007 / or4green

Waste Flow Optimization

Waste flow optimization can be formulated as a linear program wherein the decision variables represent how much of a given type of waste to transport to a given waste handling area. Electronics waste, for example, can be sent to landfill, to a remanufacturing/refurbishing location, or to a hazardous waste handling facility. The objective can be to maximize profit. Some flows may cost money, such as transporting solid waste to a landfill. Others may earn money, such as the recycling of aluminum. Emissions, energy usage, and other environmental factors can be incorporated into the objective function. Both existing waste handling procedures and hypothetical ones can be modeled, with solutions pointing to the optimal mix. Constraints can include flow balances, resource limitations, and legal or policy quotas (e.g. recycling) among others.

Along these lines, the paper Optimizing Waste Flows in the OSU Network by C. Naumoff, listed on the References page, contains a nice treatment of waste flow optimization on a university campus. Taking on an industrial ecology point of view emphasizing the notion of closed-loop systems, this paper could serve as good model for one interested in conducting a similar study on his/her own campus. See also the Center for Resilience at OSU (Ohio State University).

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