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MASTER'S PROJECT: An Analysis of Waste Management and Zero Waste in Detroit, Michigan


Goals & Objectives:

This project will accomplish an analysis of waste management and zero waste options for the city of Detroit, Michigan including:

  • Case study of successful zero waste development and implementation for cities similar to Detroit
  • Policy analysis of Detroit waste management and zero waste planning options.
  • EJ analysis of communities affected by the incinerator including a job comparison of incinerator and zero waste options.
  • A spatial analysis of participation in Detroit’s recycling program, and tonnage of recyclables collected across the city.
  • Life Cycle analysis of emissions from Zero Waste Options for Detroit
  • Life Cycle analysis of Detroit Renewable Power Incinerator waste stream and emissions
  • Multi-criteria analysis of waste management and zero waste options for the city of Detroit

Theoretical Justification, Social Benefit, or Significance:
This research has the potential to improve environmental, health, and economic conditions within the city of Detroit. The municipality’s current waste management system primarily focuses on waste management via incineration, and minimally focuses on recycling and waste recovery. The results of this research will help provide further support and justification to the city embracing zero waste models and practices.

Detroit’s incinerator, where over 80% of the city’s trash is sent, is a major polluter and contributes to Detroit’s high asthma rate. The incinerator is one of the top emitters of nitrogen oxides in Wayne County, which is a major contributor to ozone and has detrimental health impacts. An analysis and comparison of the costs of Detroit’s current waste management method of incineration versus potential zero waste options, has prospective positive impacts on the health and environment of Detroiters. In addition, there is potential economic opportunity that comes with zero waste models.

Specific Activities & Duration:
This project would use both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to tackle the proposed research question. Quantitative includes a life cycle assessment and analysis, spatial analysis, and multi-criteria analysis. Qualitative includes a policy analysis and environmental justice analysis. Yes, the scale is reasonable for a 16-month project for 4-6 students.

Integrative Approach:
The proposed research challenges and builds upon a multitude of skill sets including policy analysis, environmental justice analysis, life cycle assessment, spatial analysis, and multi-criteria analysis for disparate team members to generate an effective final product/output.

Research Areas