The environmental impact and potential for utilization of the billions of tons of used products and materials discarded each year by humanity is immense. The sheer magnitude of the materials and complexity of waste management and reuse make the issue of quantifying impacts and best practices all the more difficult. In recognition of this task, the Earth Engineering Center (EEC) of Columbia University and the Environmental Engineering Group of North Carolina State University combined resources in 2008 to form a research organization that is focused on defining and promoting best practices for sustainable waste management. This is the Center for Sustainable Use of Resources (SUR; and its mission is to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions and other life cycle impacts of various “waste” management practices; and use this information for advancing the best practical means for managing used materials, in the U.S. and globally. The SUR Center builds on the strengths of past research at Columbia and North Carolina State on recycling, composting, waste-to-energy, and landfilling. This paper describes some of the research work completed and underway at the Center.

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