EC.716 | Fall 2015 | Undergraduate

D-Lab: Waste


1 What’s our role in waste? This is an introductory class. We will start with an introduction to everyone in the room and their expectations for the class. Everyone will participate in a conversation about waste and its societal implications of waste and its disposal.
2 Field Trip Massachusetts SouthBridge Landfill
3 How do we understand waste? There are many types and sources of waste. Who generates waste in a waste system (industry, households, medical facilities, etc.)?, what are the different types of waste, how can each stream be treated / handled and by whom? By looking at the different material streams, we can explore how the idea of waste is evolving to be viewed as a source of materials and value rather than as something negative. The transition from a linear system to a closed-loop one. This class will help develop a shared set of vocabulary that we can use throughout the rest of the semester.
4 What is the end goal for waste? With any system there is the question of what is the end goal. What is the ultimate purpose of a waste management system? This class explores the dimensions of zero waste, integrated sustainable waste management and social, economic and environmental considerations of waste management.
5 Lab “Making Sense of Numbers” Game (see Session 4 lecture slides)
6 Who handles waste locally? We will use the Cambridge waste management systems as a starting point to exploring and understanding urban waste systems, stakeholders involved and the lifecycle of waste in our local area.
7 What policy environment shapes our local waste system? We will dig in deeper into Cambridge’s waste system to understand the policies influencing Cambridge’s waste system. This will ignite a question around: Whose responsibility is it to handle waste?
8 Lab Spot welder
9 What actors are involved in waste management? Many actors are involved in the collection, handling, treatment and disposal of waste. We will explore the different actors involved in a waste system. Broadly, these actors can be categorized as private (formal and informal), public (government) and citizens.
10 Whose responsibility is it to manage waste?

This class explores the responsibility of waste management. It will introduce a variety of cases to explore the dynamics of waste responsibility at the local, regional and even international scale.

Explore: Producer responsibility, public responsibility.

For class: Bring questions and discussion points about readings to discuss, and bring an update on your material research (materials in the two items selected from your backpack).

Proposal should include:

Name of Project

  • Project deliverables
  • Length: ~ 2 pages
  • Project members
  • Project timeline
  • Any resource needs (literature, mentorship, etc.)
  • Brief description / background of project
11 Lab Readings Discussion
12 What systems handle waste? There are a variety of systems for removing, treating and disposing of waste. This class will explore approaches to how waste is handled. We will examine different city systems to be able to compare waste management.
13 What types of technologies can be used to manage waste?

There are a range of technologies used in waste management and transformation. This class will explore some of the existing technologies and the steps for evaluating whether a technology is appropriate for a specific context depending on type of waste to be processed, technology cost, political buy-in, physical context and audience (consumer, commercial, public).

Lab experiment: Fuel from the Fields. Bring an egg; wear gear for the outdoors.

14 Lab

Field Trip to Save That Stuff

Due: First writing on waste technology

15 Explore a waste technology in depth Students will present their findings on a technology of their choice.
16 What is the lifecycle of a material?

The concept of a Lifecycle Assessment will be introduced and evaluated. Its application for different material streams and their lifecycles will be explored in this class.

Student presentations.

17 Lab

Movie Watching + Craft Making

Movie: Trashed

18 What does it cost to recycle plastic? Recycling is an obvious solution for plastic. Yet, recycling comes with its environmental (and human?) costs. This class explores the true environmental cost of recycling.
19 What does it cost to recycle? - Electronics

As we continue to consume electronics at the personal and professional level, there is a need to be able to recycle electronics. This class explores current electronic recycling practices, the challenges (environmental and social) within existing recycling practices and areas for improvement.

Final Project Updates (~45 minutes)

Bring an update on your final project, a rough draft on timeline, next steps; if you plan to work in the lab space, bring a sketch to start a begging prototype.

20 Lab

Life Cycle Assessment

Due: Second writing on difficult waste streams

21 How do we handle the difficult waste streams? Some waste streams do not have an immediate value. This makes handling these waste streams difficult, if not impossible. We’ll explore some of these difficult waste streams, options for handling difficult waste and the gaps in current waste management processes.
22 Given material inputs, what materials should we use and what should we avoid?

With the rise of the maker movement, what can we do to control the materials used in the generation of new products? Which materials should be avoided at all costs? What types of materials are better for the environment and human health?

Student presentations

23 Field Trip Visit Casella Recycling Plant
24 How do we handle difficult waste streams - continued!

Focus: Universal Waste or Household Hazardous Waste (HHW)

This class will explore universal waste or household hazardous waste and what it means for human exposure to hazardous waste.

25 Upcycling / Downcycling: Solids and Organics

Upcycling is one way to transform existing materials into new materials or byproducts. This class explores the upcycling of solid waste and organic materials.

Final Project Update with Instructor

26 Lab Final Project Work Session
27 What drives the international economy around waste? There is a large global economy for material streams. We’ll explore what’s valuable in the market, where different material streams end up, and what this global market means for waste systems.
28 Lab Student Work Session
29 Field Trip Stericycle tour
30 What models are trying to change the way in which waste is handled?—Finance We will examine how waste management is funded and at what scale. We’ll explore examples of different models to pay for a waste system—including through reclaimed material value, carbon credits, corporate responsibility, taxes, door-to-door waste fees.
31 Lab Student Work Session
32 What models are trying to change the way in which waste is handled?—Partnerships & Scale

We explored the different actors early on in the class. This session will build off of that conversation to explore different models of partnerships. This includes public-private, public-private-community partnerships and an exploration of the roles / responsibilities each actor serves. // Scale and centralization are two common questions in a waste system. We’ll explore the different scales of a waste system and the range of waste handling from decentralized to centralized. Discussion will focus on what are the trade-offs between scale and degree of centralization.

Due: Third writing on a WM partnership / enterprise / actor

33 What models are trying to change the way in which waste is handled?—Partnerships This class will build on the previous class around partnership models. We will focus specifically on the role of start-ups in waste management. Students will research a waste organization of their choice and present their findings to the class.
34 The intersection of social justice and waste management

Waste management has implications for social justice. In this class, we will explore some of the major cases in waste management and social justice. Here we define justice as equity and equality and also realization of human potential.

[Submit your poster for your final project to be printed]


Student Work Session

This class is for students to work on their projects in their teams to prepare for their final presentation.

Final Evaluation
Summary of Class / Reflections
Lessons Learned to Take With You

36   Final Project Presentations

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2015
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Projects with Examples
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights