GeoWorld July 2011

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BY J.M. POGODZINSKI AND PAUL E. LEDESMA Sustainability and the Economic Geography of Solid Waste ne of the most significant changes in solid-waste management has been the increasing rate of waste diversion from garbage to recycling and composting. Greater diversion means the proportion of solid waste that’s garbage is falling, while the propor- tions consisting of recyclables and compostables are rising. This change has important implications for the financing of waste removal, investment in waste-handling capacity and infrastructure, and the level of emissions associated with waste management. Geospatial factors are especially important in analyzing these implications, because the cost to transport waste to facilities, the suitability of sites for new or expanded waste facilities, and the effects on those living near waste facili- ties are best analyzed using geospatial tools. Increased diversion of waste from garbage to recy- cling and composting has been a significant goal of public policy, as it reduces greenhouse gases (see 18 GEO W ORLD / JUL Y 2O11 In addition, low- ering ton-miles hauled would reduce transportation emissions, as would a shift in transportation mode (e.g., from trucks to rail). The change in solid waste’s structure also has impli- cations for local public finance, as municipalities typi- cally receive payments based on tonnage deposited at sites within their jurisdiction. Waste facilities may pro- vide substantial revenues to local governments, and a municipality can “export” waste-disposal services to neighboring cities, which can gain revenue and jobs, especially for low- to moderate-skilled workers. Policy Paradoxes Solid waste consists of three streams: garbage (G), recyclables (R) and compostables (C), and each waste stream is handled differently. The facilities to handle each stream typically are located in different places, Resource Optimization

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