A thorough review of mathematical models, based on the application of systems analysis techniques, that have been developed for municipal solid waste (MSW) management and planning problems is presented as evidence of the growing number and complexity of the available models. A survey of practicing waste management professionals indicated a general interest in systems analysis techniques to assist with decision-making. However, a lack of practical applications of these techniques was also indicated, particularly by local and regional waste management agencies. The lack of practical model applications may result from the past reliance on landfills to manage MSW and the many non-economic implications (social, environmental, political, etc.) of MSW management and planning decisions. Research, to date, has not directly addressed the perceived deficiencies with the current problem solving techniques, nor has the application of knowledge-based system techniques been adequately explored within the field of MSW management and planning.
Three general approaches are proposed for the integration of knowledge found in the technical literature and possessed by experienced waste management engineers and planners, and existing mathematical models. These approaches are based on the creation of knowledge-based systems to interface with individual models, or assist with model selection and integration. A range of suitable application problem areas within the domain of MSW management and planning are described. As a means of demonstrating the validity, and potential benefits and limitations of the suggested decision support approaches, a prototype decision support system was developed to assist with the preliminary planning of MSW management systems. This prototype system combines knowledge-based system components with spreadsheet, optimization and simulation models to assist with the major planning activities: waste forecasting; technology evaluation; composting and recycling program design; facility sizing, location and investment timing and waste allocation; and MSW management system analysis using simulation. The user is guided through the complex process of long-range program and facility planning, and is assisted with applying and integrating the various modeling components. Potential users of the prototype decision support system are local and regional waste management engineers and planners, consulting firms, and municipal decision-makers. Based on the opinions expressed by several practicing waste management professional, and two case study application, the prototype decision support system is considered to represent a reasonable, useful, and practical (with respect to data requirements and cost) planning tool. This research has also produced knowledge bases for the prototype decision support system that represent a collection and organization of a significant amount of waste management expertise and mathematical modeling expertise contained in the MSW management and planning literature.