Planning for Sustainable Material and Waste Management

PAS Report 587

By Ning Ai, Nancey Leigh, FAICP

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Waste not, want ... what? The challenge of material and waste management is rising. The U.S. EPA estimates that the nation’s waste output has tripled since the 1960s. But communities are caught in a swirl of competing needs and goals: infrastructure, environment, economics, equity, public health, and technology. When they all flow together, they raise more questions than answers.

Planning for Sustainable Material and Waste Management meets the challenge in a way planners can put to work now and for the long term. This timely PAS Report draws from studies and practices undertaken across the United States and beyond. Out of their lessons come six concrete planning ideas developed by coauthors Ning Ai, PhD, and Nancey Green Leigh, PhD, FAICP.

Six Ideas to Meet the Challenge

Break down the silos of land, air, and water regulations, they advise. Integrate infrastructure. Look at comprehensive costs. See what green jobs can do for a struggling labor force. Watch for undue impacts on disadvantaged areas. Keep deep data to show the value that better MWM brings.

Together, these six ideas can help local governments pull away from end-of-pipe waste management. In its place, planners can push toward material-centered systems and closed-loop programs. Waste products can turn into new products — and new opportunities.

Much can be done to advance sustainable MWM goals. Planning for Sustainable Material and Waste Management gives planners the tools to act across agencies, with smart technologies and stakeholder support. The stakes are high, and the time is now. It’s an opportunity no one can afford to waste.


Executive Summary

About the Authors

Ning Ai, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a joint appointment at the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy. Her research focuses on urban environmental planning, material and waste management, and system analysis of urban sustainability. Ai also chairs the Resource Conservation Technical Coordinating Committee of the Air & Waste Management Association.

Nancey Green Leigh, PhD, FAICP, is a professor of city and regional planning at the Georgia Institute of Technology and associate dean for research in its College of Design. Leigh has published five books, including Planning Local Economic Development, 6th edition, as well as resources for planning practitioners. Her research focuses on sustainable economic development.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
May 1, 2017
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Chapter 1. Material and Waste Management: Challenges and Opportunities for Local Planning
Defining Municipal Solid Waste
Overview of Municipal Solid Waste in the U.S.
Drivers of MWM Paradigm Change and Public Intervention
Key Challenges of MWM
Existing Involvement of Planners
Goals of Sustainable MWM
Overview of the Report

Chapter 2. Environmental and Sustainability Planning for MWM
Environmental Impacts of MWM Activities
Federal Approaches to MWM
State and Local Programs
Determining Locally Specific Waste Management Methods
Integrated MWM Planning Approaches

Chapter 3. Infrastructure Planning for Integrated MWM
Overview of MSW Infrastructure Systems
Incorporating Waste and Recycling Considerations in New Development
Planning for MMW Volume: Decoupling from Economic and Population Growth
Planning for MWM Infrastructure Type: Integrating Material and Waste Management
Planning for Health Impacts Associated with MWM Infrastructure
Planning Infrastructure Through Life Cycle Stages of MWM

Chapter 4. Strategic Financing for Full Costs and Externalities
Expenditures and Revenues for MWM Services
Accounting for Full Costs and Externalities of MWM
Balancing Environmental and Economic Goals

Chapter 5. Fostering Economic Development Through Waste Diversion
Reuse, Recycling, and Remanufacturing (R3)
Recycling Job Creation in Germany and Switzerland
Planning and Policy Tools for Economic Development from Waste Diversion

Chapter 6. Balancing Equity and Efficiency
Controversies Over MWM Infrastructure Siting
Market Factors Attributing to Social Inequity in MWM
Confounding Factors of Recycling Facilities
Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice
Local Planning Tools for Equitable MWM

Chapter 7. Planning Smart with Community-Specific MWM Data and Technology
Community-Specific Waste Management Planning
Adopting and Investing in “Smart” MWM Technology
Employing Planning Tools That Facilitate MWM Data Collection

Chapter 8. Advancing Planning’s Role in Sustainable MWM
Summary of MWM Planning Opportunities and Strategies
Promoting Transparent, Comparable, and Measurable MWM Metrics and Databases
Integrating MWM Into Comprehensive Planning and Other Sustainability Plans
Employing Existing Planning Tools in Developing the Strategic MWM Plan
Fostering the Transition to Material-Centered MWM Planning