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A Web-Based Recycling Markets Information System
by Benjamin Zhan, Robert Larsen, and Xinnong Zhou
Southwest Texas State University

Editor's Note: Market information is important for both buyers and sellers of recycling materials. GIS provides a way for manufacturers and market researchers to research the geographic distribution of recycling materials. Currently information on recycling markets information is not widely available to interested parties.

The authors used ArcView GIS, ArcView Internet Map Server (IMS), Avenue, and HTML programming to develop the Recycling Markets Information System (RMIS). This Internet-based application allows interactive access to data on recycling in Texas by buyers, sellers, and recycling market researchers. It was sponsored by the Office of Pollution Prevention and Recycling at the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC).

As America is going online, a system like RMIS makes data on recycling more widely accessible anywhere anytime. It improves data sharing and is more cost-effective than other methods. RMIS provides the following four main functions

  • Assists in locating facilities that take household recyclables
  • Provides locations of buyers of large quantities of recyclable materials
  • Provides locations of sellers of recyclable materials
  • Helps identify potential sources and markets for recyclable materials in Texas

Databases in RMIS

RMIS contains both spatial and attribute data. Spatial data include the locations of companies that collect, sell, and process recycling materials; cities and counties that have community recycling programs; and manufacturers. In addition, databases with various related geographic features (roads, active landfills, interstate highways, and boundary information for counties and councils of governments (COGs), were included.

Twelve attribute tables (listed in Figure 1) are needed by the application to satisfy the queries of potential buyers and sellers. Based on how the data are used, the attribute data can be categorized as information related to the RecycleTexas programs (e.g., rt_accept.txt), information related to communities with recycling programs (e.g., gd_mtls.txt), or information related to manufacturers (e.g., mn_sic2all.txt).


[Figure1] Functions and Their Implementation

Functions in RMIS are grouped into four modules. The first module helps users locate facilities that accept small household quantities of recyclable materials. The second module allows users to query and locate on a map companies in the Recycle Texas program that buy a given material. Recycle Texas is sponsored by Ecology Action, a nonprofit organization that is one of the oldest organizations in the country dedicated to recycling. The third module retrieves and displays sellers of a given material in both the Recycle Texas program and community recycling programs. The fourth module helps market researchers identify potential sources and recycling markets for recyclable materials in Texas.

Here, the second module is used to illustrate the same design, implementation, and operation of RMIS. The other three modules were created and function in a similar fashion. The search procedure used by the second module is illustrated in Figure 2. A customer with a certain material to sell selects a material category from a drop-down list of material categories provided by RMIS. Next, the customer selects a material type that is a subset of the category chosen in the previous step. Finally, the customer enters a county name, city name, or both. RMIS searches the databases, finds companies satisfying all three input conditions, and presents the results as a map, list, or both.


[Figure 2]

The system was implemented using ArcView GIS, ArcView IMS, and Avenue. All spatial data were represented as shapefiles in ArcView GIS. All attribute data were imported to ArcView GIS. Related spatial data and attributes were either joined or linked together based on the relationships between them.

RMIS in Operation and Sample Results

The operational aspects and related results from module two are illustrated in Figures 3 to 5. Figure 3 shows the input screen used to make a query.


[Figure 3]

As an example, if the material category given by the customer is biomass, the chosen material type within the biomass category is bedding, and the chosen city is Dallas, then there are only two companies found in the databases. The locations and addresses of these two companies can be displayed (Figure 4).


[Figure 4]

The interactive mapping function is a very important part of RMIS. A customer can select a number of features to be drawn on the map and zoom in or out to obtain the information needed. Figure 5 is a more detailed map showing the two companies shown in Figure 4 with more features included in the map.


[Figure 5] Example of More Detailed Display of Search Results

This application demonstrates how ArcView GIS, ArcView IMS, and Avenue provide a powerful and convenient environment for developing Internet-based GIS.


Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. Using ArcView GIS. Redlands, California: Esri, 1996
-- Using Avenue. Redlands, California: Esri, 1996.

Graham, Ian S. HTML Source Book. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1996.

Razavi, Amir H. ArcView/Avenue Developer's Guide. Santa Fe, New Mexico: OnWord Press, 1995.

Razavi, Amir H., John Alexander, and Valerie Warwick. ArcView/Avenue Programmer's Reference. Santa Fe, New Mexico: OnWord Press, 1995.


The authors would like to thank Alan Watts, Susan Reid, and Heidi Wittenborn of TNRCC for their support and assistance during the development of the system. The authors would also like to thank Joseph B. Bowles, Dal Hunter, and Henry Hagemeier from Esri–San Antonio for the technical assistance they provided during the initial stage of this project.

For more information please contact
Dr. Benjamin Zhan
Southwest Texas State University
601 University Drive
San Marcos, Texas 78666
Tel.: 512-245-8353
E-mail: fz01@swt.edu

About the Authors

Dr. Benjamin Zhan is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Southwest Texas State University. Dr. Zhan's major research interests are transportation and environmental analyses, GIS, spatial databases, and spatial statistics. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of Geography at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Dr. Robert Larsen is a professor of geography and planning at Southwest Texas State University.

Xinnong Zhou is a doctoral student in the Department of Geography and Planning at Southwest Texas State University.

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