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A. Karkazi*, T. Hatzichristos**, A. Mavropoulos*, B. Emmanouilidou*, Ahmed
*EPEM S.A. Department of Solid and Hazardous Wastes, Greece
**Dept. of Geography, National Technical University of Athens, Greece
***Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency

SUMMARY: The construction of landfills is a no alternative option, since a landfill is always

necessary independently of the specific waste management system that will be developed. The
criteria that must be met to allocate a landfill are various and in many circumstances conflicting.
For that reason the result is not univocal, it depends on the criteria and the methodology used
together with its restrictions. The suggested methodology utilizes GIS technology for the input,
the management and the visualization of the geographic data while fuzzy logic is used for the
analysis of the data and the evaluation of the final results. The basic elements of the fuzzy logic
methodology as well as its potential in the specific problem are described. A case study took
place in one Governorate in Egypt, one of the twenty-seven country administrative units. The
results drawn up by fuzzy logic are compared with that of the classical Boolean approach of data


The site selection process is usually one of the most critical steps in the entire decision
making cycle of waste management. The direct public involvement, the economic impact in the
surroundings of a landfill and the need for combination of technical, social and legislative issues
are some typical factors that increase the difficulties for a successful site selection. Recycling,
composting, and incineration projects have been implemented as methods of minimizing the use
of land disposal of wastes. However, even practices that take advantage of material and energy
recovery generate residues that must be disposed on the land.
In many developed countries the site selection process could last five years or more
depending on the specific local circumstances. Especially when the site selection is correlated
with the design criteria of the facility the process can take up to ten years due to the detailed
geological and hydrogeological studies that have to be completed before the final decision. In the
case of a large facility with remarkable environmental impacts, a site selection process may cost
hundreds thousands dollars. On the other hand, a successful site selection process may reduce the
capital and operational cost of a landfill affecting the design of some expensive parts like liners,
biogas collection and management systems, leachate collection and management systems and
monitoring details (ISWA, 1998
Numerous factors have to be evaluated in order to place a landfill. An adequate landfill should
have minimum environmental impacts and social acceptance. Besides, an adequate landfill
should be in accordance with the respective regulations (Zyma 1990). A site selection process
usually proceeds with an approach of phases. It begins with the use of regional screening
techniques to reduce the examined area to a manageable number of discrete search areas.
Screening is based on exclusion criteria that have to be defined. Because of this screening, the
resulted areas have higher probabilities to contain suitable sites. After the initial screening, the
discrete areas have to be evaluated in more detail and the candidate sites will be identified.
Finally, a detailed evaluation of the candidate sites should be implemented, based on a site
specific level of analysis and the most suitable site will be selected. The overall site selection
process is thus one of increasingly intensive analysis of progressively smaller areas
(Buckingham P.L.,1981). It is obvious that the phased approach methodology is widely used
forthe inceptive site selection, because of its simplicity and the economy of time and money that
provides. Besides that, in most of the cases, especially in the developing countries, the lack of
the appropriate data and the requirement for a rapid site selection lead to directions where phased
approach is the best available solution.
Up to date several GIS methodologies have been used for the selection of a landfill, as GIS
provides the decision maker with a powerful set of tools for the manipulation and analysis of
spatial information. Using a Geographic Information System (GIS), it is possible to process a
huge amount of spatial data in short time and so the screening is much easier. GIS can help to
reduce remarkably the areas that have to be examined on site, although the final decision has to
be taken after field studies However, the application of a GIS methodology requires geographic
data and software. Therefore, the use of the GIS methodologies is more convenient in large-scale
analyses (national level) where one can benefit from the economy of scale.
Several methodologies have been applied up to date for sitting a landfill in combination with
GIS, such as, expert systems, raster-based C programs with optimal compactness, multicriteria
analysis (Jehng-Jung K. et al., 1996, Muhammad Z. et al., 1996, Hung-Yueh L. et al., 1999 ).
Although the data that are used aim to secure high environmental and social standards the results
that come up from the above methodologies lead to strict solutions. This is something that does
not reflect the reality, as it is impossible to define with 100% certainty the environmental or
social criteria used to delineate the boundaries of a candidate site. To overcome these drawbacks,
this paper presents a method for the siting of landfills utilizing the tools of modern technology
and more specifically fuzzy logic. GIS is necessary, given the fact that offers a powerful set of
tools for the input, the maintenance and the presentation of the data, while the use of fuzzy logic
is based on the need for appropriately treating environmental phenomena, which are not exact or
precise but rather fuzzy. Along these lines it is suggested that GIS can anthropomorphize their
analytical abilities through the incorporation of fuzzy logic.


2.1 Using GIS for the selection of landfills

The idea of GIS as a box of tools for handling geographical data is useful. Like most
toolboxes, however, the list of tools provided by GIS although impressive is not complete. For
example in most GIS packages spatial analytical functionality, lies mainly in the ability to
perform deterministic overlay and buffer functions (Carver J.S. 1991). Such abilities whilst ideal
for performing spatial searches based on nominally mapped criteria, are of limited use when
multiple criteria and targets, such as in the case of landfills selection, are applied. The integration
of GIS with analytical techniques will be a valuable addition in GIS toolbox. As Fotheringham
and Rogerson (1994) note “progress in this area is inevitable and future developments will
continue to place increasing emphasis upon the analytical capabilities of GIS”.
The fuzzy approach is most suited to applications where decision criteria are not rigid, where
the boundary between two regions is gradual. Inexact boundaries or class overlap appear to be
more the rule than the exception in geographical problems (Openshaw S., 1997).

2.2. The fuzzy logic approach

Classic Boolean logic is binary, that is a certain element is true or false, an object belongs to a set
or it doesn’t. Fuzzy logic, introduced by Zadeh in 1965 permits the notion of nuance. Apart from
being true, a proposition may be anything from almost true to hardly true (Kosko B, 1991). In
comparison with the Boolean sets, a fuzzy set does not have sharply defined boundaries. The
notion of a fuzzy set provides a convenient way of dealing with problems in which the source of
imprecision is the absence of sharply defined criteria of class membership rather than the
presence of random variables.
As mentioned, a significant fact about statistical logic is the defect that each point of a set U is
unequivocally grouped with other members of its group and thus bears no similarity to members
of other groups. One way to characterize an individual point’s similarity to all the groups is to
represent the similarity a point shares with each group with a function (termed the membership
function) whose values (called memberships) are between 0 < m < 1. Each point will have a
membership in every group, memberships close to unity signify a high degree of similarity
between the point and a group while memberships close to zero imply little similarity between
the point and that group. Additionally the sum of the memberships for each point must be unity.
The complement of A is NOT A . Although in Boolean logic A and not A are unique, in fuzzy
logic the following equation is true:

mnotA = 1 − m A .

Fuzzy degrees are not the same as probability percentages. Probabilities measure whether
something will occur or not. Fuzziness measures the degree to which something occurs or some
condition exists. Crisp sets are a subset to fuzzy sets. Only when an object belongs 100% to a
group fuzzy sets are identical to crisp sets.
In order to solve a problem with a knowledge-based fuzzy system it is necessary to describe
and process the influencing factors in Fuzzy terms and provide the result of this processing in a
usable form. The basic elements of a knowledge-based Fuzzy system are:

1. Fuzzification 3. Processing
2. Knowledge base 4. Defuzzification

These elements are described in detail, in the following paragraphs.

Several types of membership functions can be utilized (Burrough, 1996). The membership
function reflects the knowledge for the specific object or event.
Every continuous math function can be approximated by a fuzzy set. For example the criterion
distance from a road” can be approximated from the membership function in Figure 1.

Distance (m)

Small Great

“Figure 1. Membership function for the “distance from a road”

1.The assignment of a membership function to every variable of the problem is called

fuzzification process. During this process crisp subsets are transformed to linguistic subsets
such as small or great distance (Fig. 1). The concept of the linguistic variable illustrates
particularly clearly how fuzzy sets can form the bridge between linguistic expression and
numerical information.
2.The second step in the Fuzzy systems methodological approach is the definition of the rules
which connect the input with the output. These rules are based on the form “if …then and”.
The knowledge in a problem-solving area can be represented by a number of rules. The task of
rules definition is usually accomplished by experts with general knowledge on the specific
field. There is no need for assigning weights in the criteria used. The weights are indirectly
taken in account through the rules defined. For example, if the output set “suitability: is
comprised by two subsets called :poor” and “appropriate”, the rules could be:
If the distance is small then suitability is poor
If the distance is great then suitability is appropriate
3.The next step is the processing of the rules. This step is also called inference. It comprises of
the three stages, aggregation, implication and accumulation. Aggregation provides the degree of
fulfillment for the entire rule concerned. All the Boolean algebra operations (like intersection,
union, negation, etc) can be easily extended to fuzzy set operations (Bezdek, 1981) and they can
be used in this stage. In implication the degree of fulfillment of the conclusion is determined.
Accumulation brings together the individual results of the variables used details for this process
can be found in Bezdek (1981).
4.The result of rules processing can be transformed back into a linguistic expression or a crisp
value. This second process is called defuzzification and there are several methods to achieve it
(Bezdek C.J., 1981).e.g. fuzzy results: 73% poor suitability, 37% appropriate suitability
defuzzified: poor suitability.


The case study presented here, is based on the project “Action plan for the site location and the
development of design operation & environmental impact assessment methods of solid waste
sanitary landfills in Egypt Governorates” granted by the European Union within the framework
of Life Third Countries Program. According the priorities of Egyptian strategic plan regarding
the environment, the construction of at least one large landfill to each Governorate is a primary
goal among others, for the next five years. The implementation of this goal will provide an
economically feasible, environmentally sound and technically appropriate solution for the waste
disposal. The study area was Cairo, one of the twenty-seven country administrative units, and
has been used as a paradigm for this paper. The appropriate geographic layers (scale 1: 250.000)
related to environmental criteria were utilized. A major task was the utilisation of the available
data with all the restrictions that this includes, since in developing countries like Egypt the
gathering and the availability of data is the difficult part of any project. The available geographic
information which was originally stored in vector format was converted to raster format, in order
to apply the proposed approach. The pixel size decided upon was 100 x 100 meters. The
hardware platform was a PC with a Pentium III processor with an HP Design jet Plotter. As for
the software, the packages MSOFFICE, ARC/INFO 7.2.1, ARCVIEW3.2, DATA ENGINE 2.0,
in a WIN98 environment, were used.

3.1 Fuzzy logic analysis

The geographic layers used corresponding to environmental criteria are the following:

1. Primary roads network 7. Nile

2. Secondary roads network 8. Protected areas
3. Faults 9. Urban areas
4. Ports – Airports 10. Agricultural land
5. Streams 11. Stream valley
6. Canals 12. Geology-Hydrogeology

The membership function for every criterion, as well as their linguistic expression, based on the
experts knowledge, are illustrated in Table 1

Table 1 – Criteria used – linguistic expressions – membership functions

Criterion Membership function
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 700 
Primary roads  
Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 700)/600, if 700 ≤ distance(x ) ≤ 1300 
network  
Long(x)  1, if d istance(x) > 1300 
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 600 
Secondary roads  
Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 600)/800, if 600 ≤ distance(x) ≤ 1400 
network  
Long(x)  1, if distance(x) > 1400 
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 800 
 
Faults Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 800)/400, if 800 ≤ distance(x) ≤ 1200 
Long(x)  1, if distance(x) > 1200 
 
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 4500 
 
Airports – Ports Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 4500)/3000, if 4500 ≤ distance(x) ≤ 7500 
 if distance(x) > 7500 
Long(x)  1, 
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 800 
 
Streams Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 800)/400, if 800 ≤ distance(x) ≤ 1200 
Long(x)  1, if distance(x) > 1200 
 
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 800 
 
Stream Valleys Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 800)/400, if 800 ≤ distance(x) ≤ 1200 
Long(x)  1, if distance(x) > 1200 
 
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 1500 
 
Canals Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 1500)/1000, if 1500 ≤ distance(x) ≤ 2500 
 if distance(x) > 2500 
Long(x)  1, 
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 4000 
 
Nile Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 4000)/2000, if 4000 ≤ distance(x) ≤ 6000 
 if distance(x) > 6000 
Long(x)  1, 
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 4000 
 
Protected areas Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 4000)/2000, if 4000 ≤ distance(x) ≤ 6000 
 if distance(x) > 6000 
Long(x)  1, 
Distance:  0, if distance(x) < 1000 
 
Urban areas Short(x), Long(x) = (distance(x) − 1000)/1000, if 1000 ≤ distance(x) ≤ 2000 
 if distance(x) > 2000 
Long(x)  1, 
Agri. land  0, if agriculture(x) = 0 
Agricultural land Low(x), Low(x) =  
High(x)  1, otherwise 
Geo-Hydro  0, if geology − hydrogeology(x) < 4 
Geology- High(x) = 
Low(x), 
High(x)  1, if geology − hydrogeology(x) ≥ 4 

Figures 2 and 3 illustrate in graphics format two of the previous membership functions that have
been developed.

Figure 2. Membership function of the criterion “Airports-Ports”

Figure 3. Membership function of the criterion “Nile”

In order to define completely the fuzzy system at this stage, another variable must be set. This
variable concerns the fuzzy output. The output variable is the suitability of sites, comprised of
two subsets, poor suitability and appropriate suitability. According to this, at the end of the entire
process, each site will be assigned with a value, from 0 to 100, for the two suitability subsets,
poor and appropriate.
For this reason, it is necessary to define the rules that connect the input values of the criteria
through their membership functions with the output subclasses. Some of the rules used to
determine the suitability of the sites for the establishment of a landfill are the following.
1. If distances from Primary road network and Secondary road network are Long and distances
from Protected areas and Urban areas are Long and Agricultural land is Low  Then the
suitability is Appropriate with 80% certainty
2. If distances from Protected areas and Urban areas are Long and Agricultural land is Low and
Geology-Hydrogeology is High  Then the suitability is Appropriate with 85% certainty
3. If distances from Primary road network and Secondary road network are Long and distances
from Faults and Streams and Stream Valleys are Long  Then the suitability is Appropriate
with 45% certainty
With the same structure a set of twenty rules have formulated.
The next stage, inference, or processing of the rules, was carried out by using the following
operators: Minimum for Aggregation, Algebraic Product for Implication and Maximum for
The results of high suitability class are presented in map 1. Pixels with membership values
close to unity signify areas with high suitability, while pixels with values close to zero imply
areas with lower suitability.

Map 1. Fuzzy logic analysis results

Table 2 presents the number of pixels of the areas with the highest membership value.
Table 2- Membership values of high suitability
Values Number of pixels*
0-74 11068
75-84 12866
85-95 31407

3.2 Boolean logic analysis

Since no similar effort has been implemented in Egypt and by taking into account that
performance standards are not available for the landfills in Egypt, within the framework of the
project the site selection has been accomplished by following a methodology of four steps:
Step 1: Development of exclusion criteria
Step 2: Delineation of exclusion and inclusion zones
Step 3: Development of inclusion criteria
Step 4: Further elaboration for specific sites that came up
The results of the application of the above methodology are shown in Map 2. The suitable sites
are shown with black color.

Map 2. Boolean logic analysis results


The results from the fuzzy analysis show a gradual suitability for a landfill site. The results from
the Boolean analysis, instead, show the distinction between “yes” or “no” areas. Besides, the
Boolean method cannot give us information for the selected areas. With the Boolean model
83,5% of the area is considered unsuitable and is discarded without no further consideration,
while with the fuzzy model the area that could be taken under consideration and is of high
suitability (value greater than 80%) is 40% of the area drawn up by fuzzy logic. This is a crucial
point as the first screening is to exclude the areas that need protection while at the same time
make a hierarchical list of the candidate areas. We can also compare the results of the Boolean
and the fuzzy analysis, for a specific site proposed by field investigation. It is marked with
“X’’on both Maps 1 and 2. The site on the Boolean map has an area of 5,66 km2, while in fuzzy
map, with membership values greater than 0.80 has an area of 10km2.
Flexibility is another characteristic of fuzzy logic. By using a fuzzy map, decision-makers,
according the strictness of the following policy each time, regarding the socio-economics and
environmental aspects, may first select areas with a high suitability membership value and then
proceed to field investigations. If for any reason the site deemed inappropriate they can proceed
either to another site with the same membership value or to another membership value of lower
suitability. The benefit is that they don’t need to conduct a new analysis, or change the rules, or
the criteria, saving time and effort.
A number of criteria, besides the ones that have been applied, such as: the required area for
the establishment of a landfill, the distance from the waste generation, the road appropriateness,
the land use, the land property status etc., could be considered and lead to the selection of the
optimum sites. Of course this selection should not be considered as the final one as a number of
parameters should be examined in the field. The selection of the most suitable site should be
done after an examination among the optimum sites.


Concluding, we can say that the performance of conventional approaches of landfills siting based
on environmental characteristics are poor due to their fuzziness. On the contrary, fuzzy logic is
treating appropriately these phenomena and has several advantages over its counterparts as we
demonstrated in this paper, such as realism through the use of linguistic variables, hierarchical
ranking for the total geographic space and fewer repetitions of the model for the selection of the
optimum area. This does not mean that there are not disadvantages. The main of them is:
a) The lack of ready to use membership functions
b) The cost for operating a fuzzy system.
c) Traditional techniques have existed for a long period and are widely accepted.
The real challenge is the need to develop suitable methods for the siting of landfills, close to
human thinking such as fuzzy logic, which can cope with the nature of environmental and socio-
economic data. In addition the task of evaluation and development of appropriate methods of
spatial analysis, as fuzzy logic, is very important in a period of geographic data availability,
which in many cases is imprecise. As this method becomes more visible, landfills siting
procedure will be much easier.


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