Dr. Ginger Ke

Feature-Dr-Ginger-KeFrom the health of individuals and communities to the global economy and international supply chains, the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the world.

One business researcher is responding by applying her expertise towards devising a solution to one of the many problems that have arisen over the past two years.

Professor Ginger Ke has a long history of research excellence focused on the transportation of hazardous materials. With Dr. Jiahong Zhao and Mr. Biaohua Wu, her research partners at the Guangdong University of Technology in Guangzhou, China, Dr. Ke turned her focus towards the increasing volume of infectious waste being generated by the health-care industry.

“We felt that we could and should make use of our expertise to assist stakeholders in properly overcoming the difficulties during a pandemic at a responsible cost,” Dr. Ke said.

Through research that included a case study in Wuhan, China, Dr. Ke and her collaborators realized that existing waste disposal systems need to be prepared for sudden uncertainties such as pandemics. They also must ensure coherent operations in non-pandemic times to avoid wasted resources and higher costs.

In a paper for the Journal of Cleaner Production called, A bi-objective robust optimization approach for the management of infectious wastes with demand uncertainty during a pandemic, the researchers proposed a new model that uses temporary waste facilities and efficient transportation routing to guide decision-makers in their pandemic responses.

The multi-tiered framework is cost-efficient and eco-friendly as well as responsive to sudden increases in waste volume.

“This research touches on several critical aspects of waste management, namely uncertainties, risk reduction, cost saving, location and routing, and covers several decision levels from the strategic level to the operational level,” said Dr. Ke.

The research can be applied world-wide, she added.

“Despite the difference in waste management in different countries, the general guidance in treating infectious waste and the striving for effective and efficient services in waste handling are identical,” she said. “We believe our model can facilitate better management of infectious waste in various countries, especially during an unexpected pandemic.”

Dr. Ke’s work in this area is continuing. A paper led by PhD in management student Saeed Tasouji Hassanpour, which addresses time and demand variations in processing infectious waste, has been submitted to Computers & Operations Research.

Two other studies are currently in process, which are examining uncertainties in how quickly infectious waste is generated and using real-time data to adjust operational responses.