Current Projects

Current Projects

Current Projects

Several projects are continually under exploration by faculty and students in the RSWL related to solid waste management in New Jersey and the mid-Atlantic region.

Garbage in the Garden State

New Jersey faces endless solid waste stereotypes. Many in the rest of the US would have you believe that Jersey's main value is as a dumping site for New York, Philadelphia, and shore tourists.  But Garbage in the Garden State, funded by the National Science Foundation, builds on a broad base of unexamined archival sources and extensive interviews with key figures in waste management during the past 50 years to reveal a more profound truth: New Jersey towns, counties, courts, and companies have been shaping waste management processes across the US for decades, and may just hold the key for a sustainable waste management future.  

You can access a quantitative dataset of New Jersey's waste and recycling tonnages here (Mendeley Data):
Howell, Jordan P., Katherine Schmidt, Brooke Iacone, Giavanni Rizzo, and Christina Parrilla. “New Jersey's Waste and Recycling Data: 1993-2016” dataset and supplementary materials, published to Mendeley Data

Educating Residents about Alternatives to Landfilling in NJ

Alongside colleagues in the Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering, we have developed an informational booklet about alternatives to landfilling aimed at reducing the amount of material disposed in landfills in New Jersey each year. Though nowadays many people realize that alternatives to landfilling (like recycling or composting) make sense from a resource conservation perspective, fewer people are aware of the environmental risks of landfilling including groundwater contamination and the potential for dangerous underground fires. 

Many NJ residents received a copy of this booklet in the mail, but you can download your own copy here. This project was supported in part by a US Dept. of Agriculture Solid Waste Management Grant.

Campus Wastes

Faculty and students in the RSWL are collaborating with Rowan University's Division of Facilities, Planning & Operations to analyze campus waste generation and management patterns. Current efforts focus on visualizing campus waste generation data and exploring alternative technologies and practices that could move campus closer towards 'zero waste' while simultaneously lowering costs and improving environmental performance.

Analyzing and Visualizing Campus Waste Generation Trends

In this dimension of the program, we are trying to understand exactly how much and what types of waste are being generated at specific points on the Glassboro campus. Using several years of waste generation data provided by the Division of Facilities, we are crunching the numbers and generating maps to envision ways of improving the cost and environmental performance of the campus' waste management program.

An early output of this analysis has been 'snapshot' maps of waste and recycling tonnage costs around campus (as well as a combined map). As you can see, some areas produce a lot more waste and recycling than others. We are working on considering exactly what this means as far as the costs and environmental impacts of waste management on campus.

Assessing Campus Waste Management Processes

In this dimension of the program, contributors to the RSWL are imagining a new future for waste management on Rowan's main Glassboro campus. This part of the project is the application of the findings from the above section, and will extend into a variety of aspects of campus life ranging from contractual agreements with waste haulers to public education campaigns in dorms to proposals for new campus infrastructures.

Studies are in development that consider the accessibility of recycling locations on campus (draft available here), work which will be expanded in Fall 2017.

Food Waste and Organic Waste Management

"Many states in the Northeast have experimented with composting projects in densely populated areas such as Philadelphia and New York City. However, New Jersey is hesitant to use taxpayer money on these projects and wants to copy projects in neighboring states once they have been perfected. This philosophy can be seen in New Jersey's currently restrictive laws regarding composting..."

From Organics Recycling in NJ (2014) white paper. This series of studies and white papers considers the efforts to expand, and, ultimately, state of inertia surrounding food waste and organic materials management policy in NJ

Seasonal Variations in NJ Waste Generation and Management

"...the solid waste generation statistics of Cape May County look staggering. For nearly two decades, Cape May County has been the greatest or second-greatest producer of total solid waste per capita in New Jersey...In 2010 Cape May generated 171,485.81 tons of solid waste, approximately 1.76 tons per person, more than double the rate of more populated counties in the state, such as Union (0.80 tons per person) and Mercer (0.875 tons per person)."

From Cape May County's Unique Waste Challenges (2014) white paper. This series of studies and white papers explores the dramatic seasonal shifts in waste generation in Cape May County, NJ, and various responses available to local government officials there.

Explaining Variations in Recycling Rates Within NJ

"Factors that may affect a County's recycling rate are many. They include, but are not limited to, the execution of municipal plans, population, seasonal residents, the number of recyclable materials accepted, curbside collection and monetary incentives. Important also to consider are individual household's income, level of education, age, and level of homeownership. Among these factors, some affect the recycling rate more drastically than others."

From Why Do MSW Recycling Rates Vary Between New Jersey's Counties? (2014) white paper. This series of studies and white papers considers the factors shaping variations in recycling behavior among NJ counties and municipalities.

Considering Waste-to-Energy Facilities in the US

Waste-to-Energy (WTE) technology burns wastes in order to produce steam, which can be used for industrial processes or to generate electricity. Though very common in Europe and East Asia, WTE is not very highly utilized in the US. Why is this the case? And should we be using the technology more extensively here? Check out some answers in Dr. Howell's white paper on WTE.