EME 807
Technologies for Sustainability Systems

Summary and Activities

This lesson contains significant amount of information on existing and developing methods of resource conservation and waste treatment. This information is mainly related to dealing with municipal waste and does not cover special types of waste such as nuclear or agricultural waste. Wastewater and sewage treatment is a separate topic that will be addressed in the next lesson. The general thought that summarizes this lesson is that treatment of waste is dirty and expensive business - it is better to prevent it than clean it up. New technologies that would change the situation to a more sustainable world must involve transformative design innovations that increase the recyclability and biodegradability of the waste stream outputs. Life cycle thinking and modeling will help to identify the best scenarios for sustainable actions.

Assignments for Lesson 5:
Type Assignment Directions Submit To
Reading Complete all necessary reading assigned in this lesson.

Clean-up Innovations. 

1. Search the web for innovative ideas aimed at efficient waste disposal or removal. 2. Post the link to the story or source. 3. Briefly explain the principle of technology or approach. 4. Express your own opinion on the promise of this idea.

This search can be related to any scale of waste disposal or cleanup (from industrial to small household or community wide). Let us stick to the solid waste area (wastewater treatment is a separate topic). It can be both a technological system or simply a strategy, but it should provide a way to make our living environment cleaner.

Canvas: Lesson 5 Module

Learn the LCA case study described in Section 5.4 of the lesson.

Book Chapter: Solid Waste Technology & Management, Christensen, T., Ed., Wiley and Sons., 2011. Chapter 3.2. Christensen, T.H., LCA in Waste Management: Introduction of Principle and Method,Section pp. 153-155.

  • Using the description and data presented in the chapter, make an LCA flow diagram for one of the described composting scenarios.
  • On your diagram, indicate the impact points that are responsible for (i) energy expenses, (ii) greenhouse gas emissions, (iii) long-term toxicity, and (iv) labor.
  • Suggest technologies that can be used to reduce environmental impact of cost at those impact points.
  • Prepare a brief annotation to your diagram to explain the main pros and cons of the chosen scenario for the waste treatment.

For more details, please see Lesson 5 Activity Sheet on Canvas.

Deadline: Wednesday (before midnight)


Lesson 5

Peer Review
Your peer reviews of the course project outlines assigned to you will need to be submitted the following week! It is important to provide timely feedback since progress your classmates make with their projects will depend on these reviews.

The reviews should be submitted as comments to authors' presentation in the Course Project module on Canvas.



Course Project module


Solid Waste Technology & Management, Volume 1 & 2, Christensen, T., Ed., Wiley and Sons., 2010.

McDonough, W. and Braungart, M., Cradle to Cradle. Remaking the Way We Make Things, North Point Press. New York, 2002.

The Hannover Principles. Design for Sustainability, William McDonough Architects, 1992.

Life Cycle Assessment: Principles and Practice, EPA/600/R-06/060, 2006.