Global Climate Negotiations
Salmon Management in Pacific Northwest
Municipal Solid Waste Siting Project
Golf Resort Water Project


OVERVIEW: This project uses the environmental issues associated with the management of municipal solid waste in a role-playing setting.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES: You have two main objectives in this project. First, you must develop a municipal solid waste (MSW) system for the city of CAST; your focus is on the facilities that will be needed to handle the solid waste. Second, you must locate those facilities within the city of CAST. You will be divided into four stakeholder groups to complete these tasks, but the Council must produce a single final MSW system. The groups are as follows:

  1. Solid Waste Incorporated (SWI) - local waste management firm

  2. Cast City Council (Council) - elected city government with decision responsibility

  3. Concerned Citizens Association Blue (CCA-Blue) - group of concerned citizens from upper income community

  4. Concerned Citizens Association Green (CCA-Green) - group of concerned citizens from lower income community

PROJECT SCENARIO: The State Environmental Agency (SEA) has mandated that all cities in the state institute a waste diversion program that will divert 25% of their current MSW streams from the landfills within 3 years. To do this, assume that CAST must construct a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) to process its recyclables before shipping them to their respective market. SWI is a private corporation that provides solid waste management services to CAST on a contract basis. It builds, operates, and maintains all SWM facilities, but the City owns the facilities and must assume all costs. As part of its contract SWI assumes all liability for damages likely to arise out of its management of the citys MSW. Presently, SWI operates a single landfill for the city (taking residential and commercial MSW), and has informed them that the available capacity will expire in 3 years. However, the landfill can be expanded in the buffer zone to the north of its current location. CAST currently has no other options for managing its MSW since the export of waste to other landfills is illegal under state law (i.e., exporting waste is NOT an option). Table 1 outlines the options available to the city. Assume that all options can be constructed and placed in full operation within 3 years. The attached figure illustrates the socioeconomic breakdown of the City, and the possible locations for a waste disposal facility (based on zoning laws and geology). Besides the annualized costs of the facilities, each facility will likely impact property value in each community, and there are uncertain health risks and environmental degradation associated with each facility. The decision as to where to site the facility(ies) may include payments (or free services) to the affected communities by SWI. In other words SWI may compensate residents for impacts from the waste facilities.


Annual Cost

Life of System


Expand landfill


7 years

Will use up 75% of existing buffer zone to the north of the landfill



Adds 1 year of life to landfill or WTE for every 10% MSW recycled

25% rate mandated within 3 years.

Add yard waste composting facility

X (without odor control),

1.5 X (with odor control)

Adds 1 year of life to landfill or WTE for every 50% yard waste recycled

Yard waste is 15% of MSW. Facility produces a strong but nonhazardous odor of decay.

Add waste to energy facility (WTE)

4X (with regulated technology - 95% air emissions removal, 10-4 risk), 6X (with best available technology - 99% air emissions removal, 10-6 risk)

20 years at full capacity

Needs a minimum of 60% of MSW to be cost effective. Full capacity is 100% of MSW stream, but 5% of MSW stream will need to be landfilled as ash.

Build new landfill


20 years at full capacity

Needs a minimum of 60% of MSW to be cost effective. Full capacity is 100% of MSW stream.

Note 1: Assume transportation costs are similar for each option since waste is not leaving city limits.

Note 2: Assume equal population in each quadrant and facility lifetime estimates account for population changes

Note 3: Assume the following annual land value:

90% blue, 10% green 0.4X
90% green, 10% blue 0.1X
80% blue, 20% green 0.3X
50% blue, 50% green 0.2X


ASSIGNMENT: Each group will develop a river basin management system for the region that includes specific policy considerations for the Council. Each recommendation from a stakeholder group must include the combination of proposed strategies, the overall costs and benefits of the program (qualitatively), and a justification of why this is the best plan. On the scheduled date, each group will have 5 minutes each to present its plan to the Regional Planning Council. The Regional Planning Council will have a total of 10 minutes to ask the groups questions. The Council may allow some questions from the rest of the audience. The Council will then incorporate these comments into their pre-prepared plan and announce the final decision. Each of the groups must also turn in a 3-page written position piece outlining its rationale - this means the plan and justification for why it should be adopted. The written deliverable must include a concept map highlighting the issues and a decision matrix to decide between alternatives (these can be in addition to the 3 pages).

You are free to research this as much as you want. Your grade will depend on the extent of substantiated points. Cite all references used. Be careful to both use reliable sources and to adopt the role of the stakeholder you represent. Besides the internet (especially newspaper articles), the following books have substantial relevant information: Compass and Gyroscope by Kai Lee, Island Press, 1993; and Upstream, National Research Council, 1996.

HOW TO PREPARE: As you are researching ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the problem that must be solved? Why is it complicated? What are the issues?

  • Characterize the case with tools we are using (e.g. concept map, the decision matrix)

  • Who are the main stakeholder groups? What are their objectives? Are they conflicting?

  • What are the alternative solutions to the problem?

  • What criteria can be used to evaluate the options?


Concept map of factors that influence your recommended plan 15
Decision matrix 15
Justification of recommendation (written) 30
Format including citations/references 10
Presentation 30
Total 100
  ©Copyright 2003 Carnegie Mellon University
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 9653194. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.