The Open UniversitySkip to content

Putting matter in place: measuring tradeoffs in waste disposal and recycling

Offenhuber, Dietmar; Lee, David; Wolf, Malima; Phithakkitnukoon, Santi; Biderman, Assaf and Ratti, Carlo (2012). Putting matter in place: measuring tradeoffs in waste disposal and recycling. Journal of the American Planning Association, 78(2) pp. 173–196.

Full text available as:
Full text not publicly available (Proof)
Due to publisher licensing restrictions, this file is not available for public download
Click here to request a copy from the OU Author.
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


Reliable information on trash disposal is crucial but becomes difficult as waste removal chains grow increasingly complex. Lack of firm data on the spatial behavior of waste hampers effective recycling strategy design. In particular, the environmental impact of electronic and household hazardous waste is poorly understood. Our study investigates waste processing in an environmental, economic, and geographic context, using novel methods to track municipal solid waste in the city of Seattle (WA). We observed the movement of 2,000 discarded items using attached active GPS sensors, recording an unprecedented spatial dataset of waste trajectories. We both qualitatively identified facilities visited along each item's trajectory, then statistical modeled characteristic transportation distance and the likelihood of ending up at a specific type of facility by product categories, place of disposal, and collection mechanism. We show that a) electronic and household hazardous waste items travel significantly longer and have more arbitrary trajectories than other types of waste and b) that existing models for waste emissions may underestimate the environmental impact of transportation by not accounting for very long trajectories.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2012 American Planning Association,
ISSN: 1939-0130
Keywords: waste management; environmental impact; pervasive sensing; recycling; transportation emissions
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Computing and Communications
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Item ID: 34786
Depositing User: Santi Phithakkitnukoon
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2012 10:25
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2018 10:08
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU