EME 807
Technologies for Sustainability Systems

5.0 Overview


The waste management technologies are critically important when we try to visualize a sustainable society. In the growing world, a huge share of the output of the industrial processes and society living is waste, which has a dramatic impact on the environment. Turning the "linear" production economy to a "closed-loop" no-waste economy is a primary task underlined by sustainable design principles. And new designs and new technologies can have a big role in this process both at the local and national level.

There are two issues in resource management story: (1) resource conservation and (2) pollution prevention. When natural resources are extracted and turned into products via a manufacturing process, they become involved in a linear lifecycle - cradle-to-grave. If there is a constant demand for the product, more resources will be extracted, more product manufactured, and more end-of-cycle refuse generated. The limitation associated with the first issue is eventual depletion of the resource (especially if it is non-renewable). The limitation associated with the second issue is reaching the environmental capacity for holding or absorbing the "death" products. These limitations create potential for crisis which has to be addressed in order to reach system sustainability.

In this lesson, we will take a look at some technologies that seem promising along those lines.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:

  • understand and explain the important and key sustainable technologies in waste management;
  • discuss the closed-loop recycling and zero-waste philosophy principles;
  • apply life cycle thinking to waste management systems;
  • demonstrate some ways to measure the technical performance of waste management processes.


  1. Book: Solid Waste Technology & Management, Christensen, T., Ed., Wiley and Sons., 2011. Chapters 1.1; 3.1; 3.2.
  2. EPA Document: Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2011, US EPA 2012.
  3. EPA Document: Electronics Waste Managements in the United States through 2009. Executive Summary, US EPA, 2011.
  4. Web: Types of Composting(link is external), US Environmental Protection Agency, 2013.