Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a free, user-friendly tool that uses multiple calculation models to help solid waste management systems meet their environmental goals in the most cost-effective way possible.
Waste management systems do more than just put solid waste in landfills. These systems must not only store or recycle solid waste safely, but must also minimize the health risks associated with the waste, minimize the environmental risks associated with air or water pollution, and minimize the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that can be produced as solid waste is processed or decomposes.
“The challenge is that there are a host of things waste management systems can do to achieve these goals,” says James Levis, co-author of a paper on the new tool and assistant professor of civil engineering research. , construction and environment in NC. State. “And many of these actions have trade-offs, in terms of cost, environmental impact, technical challenges, etc.
“To solve this problem, we created an open source tool called Solid Waste Optimization Life-cycle in Python (SwolfPy), which allows users to evaluate all of these options in one place. This can help users determine the best course of action for any specific set of circumstances.And, because it is open-source, the solid waste community can develop additional features over time to make the tool even more useful in guiding decision-making.
“SwolfPy is a dynamic tool,” says Mojtaba Sardarmehni, corresponding author of the paper and Ph.D. student at NC State. “For example, if someone develops a better model for one of its components, the open-source platform will allow users to update SwolfPy.”
The SwolfPy framework includes a collection of process models and a user interface that allows users to plug in data relevant to their situation. SwolfPy will then run the numbers and do two things. First, it gives users a concise overview of their current global operations and what that means for their costs and environmental goals. Second, SwolfPy gives users the best combination – or combinations – of processes that would allow them to meet their goals for cost, GHG emissions, and more.
But users don’t have to use the default templates included in SwolfPy. Users can also choose to develop process models tailored to their specific projects and connect these models to SwolfPy; or users can use a combination of default templates and custom templates. Whichever template suite they choose, SwolfPy allows users to plug their target numbers into the UI, and SwolfPy will let them know which combination of processes will bring them closest to their goals.
“To be clear, there isn’t always a best solution,” says Sardarmehni. “For example, there may be one process combination that is the most cost-effective, while a second option is less cost-effective, but does a better job of reducing GHG emissions. What SwolfPy does is identify the range of the best possible options for users, based on how they prioritize their goals.”
“We believe SwolfPy will be a useful tool for waste management companies, government policy makers dealing with solid waste issues, state policy makers, and the research community,” Levis said.
SwolfPy is already available for free online at https://swolfpy-project.github.io/.
“We are open to hearing from people in the solid waste community who have ideas or questions about how SwolfPy can be used, as well as what can be done to continue to refine it as a practical tool. “, said Levis.
The work was done with support from the National Science Foundation under grant 1437498 and the Environmental Research and Education Foundation.
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Material provided by North Carolina State University. Original written by Matt Shipman. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.