Environmental resource management students generate recommendations to improve Apache Junction’s solid waste program

Graduate- and undergraduate-level students partner with Arizona city to research, identify, and refine City’s waste collection strategies.


Devin R. Larsen


Steve Russell, Marshall Curry


Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
Community Size
41,739 (2018 Census Estimation)
Arizona State University
Project Cities
Case Type
Project Stories
School Size
Greater than 40,000
Focus Areas
Environment Sustainability
Engineering, Sustainability
EPA Region 9, USA
Community Partner Department
Public Works
Solid Waste
University Department Code
Public Administration, Public Affairs
Community Population Sizes
41739 (2018 Census Estimation)
Population Type

Apache Junction is at a crossroads: as a young city that carries the vestiges of its past (prior to having a centralized city code) city staff question whether their hands-off approach to waste management would be sufficient to meet the needs of a city whose population is expected to continue increasing. The city’s privatized solid waste management system was resulting in issues such as illegal dumping and pollution.

The city wants to envision remedies to these challenges and answer questions such, would its citizens prefer a more cohesive and explicit solid waste strategy? Answering these questions would allow the city to shape a future solid waste management plan which more efficiently serves its population and reduces environmental impacts. 

Apache Junction partnered with Project Cities to dive into this issue. A member of the EPIC-Network, Arizona State University’s (ASU) Project Cities “connects higher education with local communities” (from ASU Project Cities site) to co-create sustainable solutions which progress cities toward a better future. Apache Junction invited students in ASU’s Environmental Resource Management program to evaluate and compare Apache Junction’s waste management practices and those of surrounding cities.

The students involved conducted research and generated insightful recommendations for the city of Apache Junction. Various forms of research were implemented by students, including the following examples: 

  • Comparing the practices of Apache Junction to nearby cities thanks to literature research. 
  • Conducting a human-centered, qualitative survey to reveal “trends in solid waste practices of Apache Junction residents and their perceptions of different solid waste strategies.” (PC 2017 Guide)
  • Researching relevant case studies to create benchmarks for the City’s waste management services.

Through these and other methods, students defined Apache Junction’s existing practices and strategies, from which more sustainable solid waste management strategies could be recommended.

Insight gathered by students generated numerous recommendations that the City of Apache Junction could implement to improve the sustainability of their Solid Waste Management strategy. Some of these findings included the following: 

  • Discontinue “Free Dump Week,” as surveyed residents do not primarily rely on it and are “not opposed to weekly pickup of solid waste and recycling”; furthermore, this should be considered as the program might be in violation of city and county codes related to hauling solid waste. (From PC Guide)
  • Join a neighboring city in contracting a shared-service solid waste provider.
  • Implement a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) solid waste service to allow residents to remove waste as needed.
  • Strengthen recycling options—such as a mandated recycling pickup—to extend the lifetime of the Apache Junction Landfill.

The partnered ASU course and its students helped Apache Junction discover strategic implementations that could strengthen the sustainability of the City’s solid waste management system. Through these ASU recommendations, Apache Junction can effectively perform internal cost-benefit and residential analyses to confidently identify the best course of action going forward, ensuring their citizens are both protected and served well into the future.

Arizona State University Project Cities Contact
Steven Russell
Program Manager

Al Brown
Senior Lecturer
The Polytechnic School ERM Program
(480) 727-1320

City of Apache Junction Contact
Larry Kirch
Development Services
City of Apache Junction

Mike Wever
Public Works
City of Apache Junction
(480) 474-8513

Read the full story of the partnership.

Read the final student report delivered to the local gov/community partner.

University Capital

Classes 1 Classes
Students 34 Students
Hours 4,896 Hours
Disciplines 1 Disciplines
Projects 1 Projects
Faculty Members 1 Faculty Members

"The solid waste and recycling project which was done over several years and classes directed the city to a more sustainable method of solid waste and recycling collection and disposal."

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