Publication Date

Summer 2015

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Leslie North (Director), Jun Yan, and Christian Ryan

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Over the past two decades, the number of universities that pursue zero-waste strategies has steadily increased. However, more study is required on several interrelated factors, policy barriers, and infrastructural fundamentals, which each influence the efficiency of waste management structures (WM) at universities. In this work, the role of the aforementioned factors in implementing an efficient sustainable WM program at higher education institutions was investigated, using Western Kentucky University (WKU) as a case study. The objectives of this study were to identify and assess what type of WM strategies should be priorities for a university that may lack stringent WM infrastructure. Firstly, through this research, waste minimization-oriented policy instruments implemented at American top-level and WKU benchmark universities were compared. In parallel, the recycling behavior of the WKU community was assessed. According to this research, planning well-defined temporal periods with clear goals and allocated tasks for stakeholders is essential. The time periods should include providing readiness programs and performing a waste characterization study from generation points. As the program matures, writing sustainable WM policies with clarified responsibilities for stakeholders is required. The ability of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), as a data integration tool and Spatial Decision Support System (SDSS), to enhance the operational roadmap of WM at universities was also investigated. Specifically, GIS was applied to spatially visualize and assess waste generation streams and resource allocation solutions at WKU. The weights of accumulated garbage in dumpsters, which are exclusively assigned to each building, were analyzed with the Kernel Density Estimation (KDE) method. Buildings that were high-volume waste generators included buildings with food facilities, suggesting close review of policies related to food practices is essential for developing WM schemes. Furthermore, location-allocation and service area analyses were used to investigate the number of outdoor waste bins and make data-driven recommendations to enhance WM efficiency on the WKU campus. Overall, by utilizing GIS techniques, zerowaste planners can identify how campus waste stream trends change, predict how the recycling rate can be raised by infrastructural changes, and make decisions about where sustainability-concentrated efforts, such as departmental policies, should be concentrated.


Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Geography | Sustainability