Document Type

Article

DOI

dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.wasman.2013.12.020

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

The primary objective of waste management technologies and policies in theUnited Statesis to reduce the harmful environmental impacts of waste, particularly those relating to energy consumption and climate change. Performance indicators are frequently used to evaluate the environmental quality of municipal waste systems, as well as to compare and rank programs relative to each other in terms of environmental performance. However, there currently is no consensus on the best indicator for performing these environmental evaluations. The purpose of this study is to examine the common performance indicators used to assess the environmental benefits of municipal waste systems to determine if there is agreement between them regarding which system performs best environmentally. Focus is placed on how indicator selection influences comparisons between municipal waste management programs and subsequent system rankings. The waste systems of ten municipalities in the state ofNew York,USA, were evaluated using each common performance indicator and Spearman correlations were calculated to see if there was a significant association between system rank orderings. Analyses showed that rank orders of waste systems differ substantially when different indicators are used, suggesting that the current suite of indicators may not be suitable for evaluating environmental quality of municipal systems. Therefore, comparative system assessments based on indicators should be considered carefully, especially those intended to gauge environmental quality. Insight was also gained into specific factors which may lead to one system achieving higher rankings than another. However, despite the insufficiencies of indicators for comparative quality assessments, they do provide important information for waste managers and they can assist in evaluating internal programmatic performance and progress. To enhance these types of assessments, a framework for scoring indicators based on criteria that evaluate their utility and value for system evaluations was developed. This framework was used to construct an improved model for waste system performance assessments.

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