Empowering Systems Analysis for Solid Waste Management: Challenges, Trends, and Perspectives

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Solid waste management is a significant issue for sustainable development that involves the technical, socioeconomic, legal, ecological, political, and even cultural components. For this reason, systems analysis has been uniquely providing interdisciplinary support for policy analysis and decision making in solid waste management for the last few decades. Considering these challenges and accomplishments retrospectively, this paper presents a thorough literature review and in-depth discussions of systems analysis models that are promising for providing forward-looking, cost-effective, risk informed, and environmentally benign decisions for sustainable solid waste management. To simplify the discussion, the spectrum of these systems analysis models was divided into three broadly based domains associated with fourteen categories, although some of them may be intertwined with each other. The first domain comprises systems engineering models including cost-benefit analysis, forecasting analysis, simulation analysis, optimization analysis, and integrated modeling system; the second domain introduces systems analysis platforms, such as management information systems/decision support systems/expert systems; and the third domain introduces system assessment tools including scenario development, material flow analysis, life-cycle assessment, risk assessment, environmental impact assessment, strategic environmental assessment, socioeconomic assessment, and sustainable assessment. While some models or tools may be elucidated with respect to multiple managerial purposes, such as integrated modeling system and sustainable assessment, others may cover extended foci of market-based instruments and regulatory requirements, such as socioeconomic assessment and environmental impact assessment. The authors use the term systems analysis as a placeholder for the disparate strands of research and practice at this intersection between environmental systems engineering and sustainability science. Given that the sustainable management is necessary at all phases of impact from the interactions among several prescribed paradigms, current and future solid waste management strategies in relation to systems analysis were particularly discussed. Such a critical review paper may aid the prediction of the possible challenges and the preparation of the appropriate tactics in dealing with large-scale complex solid waste management systems under normal operation and special conditions. It should lead the authors to echo some of their real world observational evidence in terms of cost-benefit-risk trade-off in decision analysis for solid waste management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1449-1530
JournalCritical Reviews In Environmental Science And Technology
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • simulation and modeling
  • solid waste management
  • sustainable management
  • systems analysis


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