IMFO is an environmental impacts calculator for planners, analysts, and workers in the fields of solid waste, diversion, recycling, and sustainable materials management. Similar to the Waste Reduction Model (WARM), IMFO translates information about the mass of materials in the end-of-life stream to semi-life-cycle impacts of those materials, and allows users to compare the estimated impacts of varying management scenarios. For example, a user might compare the estimated greenhouse gas impacts associated with: a) a moderate level of composting; b) an increased rate of composting; and c) a reduction in the generation of organic waste overall. Unlike WARM, IMFO allows users to compare more than 2 scenarios, provides results in a large number of impact categories, and clearly illustrates the total impact of materials, rather than just savings. IMFO will utilize an original and freely published set of impact factors developed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) life cycle analysts. IMFO will be available as both an online tool and a fully-documented codebase in R or Python.
How was the Project Started?
Oregon solid waste law has a new requirement to evaluate recovery activities in terms of environmental impacts. This necessitates the creation of an impact calculator that uses solid waste and recovery data.
When was the Project Started?
When was the Project Completed, or is it Ongoing?
What are the Results to Date?
Several proof-of-concept analyses conducted to date, using limited sets of materials and geographic coverage, made clear the importance of expressing results as total impacts associated with materials, rather than the “savings” associated with one strategy over another. Focusing on savings obscures the reality that the majority of impacts associated with materials come from the production of those materials. For most materials, recovery activities have only a limited ability to reduce total environmental impacts of the materials system. Substantial reductions in total impacts will necessitate the full range of sustainable materials management strategies, including source reduction, strategic recovery, product redesign and longevity, etc.
What are the Resources Needed, including Time, Cost, Etc.?
To create IMFO, DEQ required 1.5 full-time employees (FTEs) (programmers and life cycle analysts) for 2-3 years. Maintenance after creating the tool only requires 0.5 FTE. Software licenses (for life cycle analysts only, not necessary for users) costs approximately $10,000 per year.
- Martin Brown
- Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality
- Goals & Measures Specialist