Environmental evaluation of municipal waste prevention

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article – Annual report year: 2011

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Waste prevention has been addressed in the literature in terms of the social and behavioural aspects, but very little quantitative assessment exists of the environmental benefits. Our study evaluates the environmental consequences of waste prevention on waste management systems and on the wider society, using life-cycle thinking. The partial prevention of unsolicited mail, beverage packaging and food waste is tested for a “High-tech” waste management system relying on high energy and material recovery and for a “Low-tech” waste management system with less recycling and relying on landfilling. Prevention of 13% of the waste mass entering the waste management system generates a reduction of loads and savings in the waste management system for the different impacts categories; 45% net reduction for nutrient enrichment and 12% reduction for global warming potential. When expanding our system and including avoided production incurred by the prevention measures, large savings are observed (15-fold improvement for nutrient enrichment and 2-fold for global warming potential). Prevention of food waste has the highest environmental impact saving. Prevention generates relatively higher overall relative benefit for “Low-tech” systems depending on landfilling. The paper provides clear evidence of the environmental benefits of waste prevention and has specific relevance in climate change mitigation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Publication date2011
Volume31
Journal number12
Pages2371-2379
ISSN0956-053X
DOIs
StatePublished
CitationsWeb of Science® Times Cited: 9
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