Application of macro material flow modeling to the decision making process for integrated waste management systems Page: 3 of 12
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Application of Macro Material Flow Modeling to the Decision Making Process for
Integrated Waste Management Systems
Samuel A. Vigil
Civil & Environmental Engineering Department
California Polytechnic State University
San Luis Obispo, California 93407
Gregory M. Holter
Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory
P.O. Box 999
Richland, WA 99352
Computer models have been used for almost a decade to model and analyze various aspects of solid
waste management. Commercially available models exist for estimating the capital and operating costs
of landfills, waste-to-energy facilities and compost systems and for optimizing system performance
along a single dimension (e.g. cost or transportation distance).
An alternative to the use of currently available models is the more flexible macro material flow
modeling approach in which a macro scale or regional level approach is taken. Waste materials are
tracked through the complete integrated waste management cycle from generation through recycling and
reuse, and finally to ultimate disposal.
Such an approach has been applied by the authors to two different applications. The STELLA
simulation language (for Macintosh computers) was used to model the solid waste management system
of Puerto Rico. The model incorporated population projections for all 78 municipalities in Puerto Rico
from 1990 to 2010, solid waste generation factors, remaining life for the existing landfills, and projected
startup time for new facilities. The Pacific Northwest Laboratory has used the SimScript simulation
language (for Windows computers) to model the management of solid and hazardous wastes produced
during cleanup and remediation activities at the Hanford Nuclear Site.
Computer models have been used for almost a decade to model various aspects of solid waste
management Computer models should be used to provide statistical and economic data to assist in the
decision making process. They supplement but do not replace expert solid waste engineers and
Two basic approaches have been used to develop computer models. The first approach is to
develop generic computer applications that can be run by technically competent personnel in the solid
waste management field who are not necessarily computer programmers. The second approach is to use
standardized "software tools" to develop a custom made model for a specific situation. Such a model
requires close coordination between the software developer and the user.
Several generic models have been developed. These models all have standard input screens for
data entry, and produce standardized output reports. One of the first models of this type was the Solid
Waste Financial Model developed by the author for the California Integrated Waste Management Board
in 1985 (1). The model was based on the widely used Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet program. It was
designed to be used by individual cities to help estimate the costs of various solid waste management
options. In 1988, another generic model, WastePlan, was developed by the Tellus Institute (2). A
similar program, GIGO (Garbage In - Garbage Out), based on the EXCEL spreadsheet program, is under
development at the University of California, Davis (2).
Results with these generic models have been mixed. All of them require significant staff time to
organize and load the required data on waste composition, quantities, local labor and capital costs, etc.
In Michigan and New York, many communities provided free copies of WastePlan by their state solid
waste agencies, have not used it due to the time requirements for data loading and interpretation of the
final results (2). A similar situation occurred in California with the Solid Waste Financial Model.
Although the model was designed for use by individual communities, the principal users were
consultants who were willing to devote the training time to effectively use the model.
The second approach to modeling is to develop customized applications for specific situations. An
example of this approach was the Graphical Integrated Solid Waste Management Model developed by
the author in 1990 for Brown and Caldwell Consultants and the Puerto Rico Solid Waste Management
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Vigil, S.A. & Holter, G.M. Application of macro material flow modeling to the decision making process for integrated waste management systems, article, April 1, 1995; Richland, Washington. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc791573/m1/3/: accessed March 25, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.