Environmental assessment of different management options for individual waste fractions by means of life-cycle assessment modelling

Simone Manfredi, Davide Tonini, Thomas Højlund Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Several alternatives exist for handling of individual waste fractions, including recycling, incineration and landfilling. From an environmental point of view, the latter is commonly considered as the least desirable option. Many studies based on life-cycle assessment (LCA) highlight the environmental benefits offered by incineration and especially by recycling. However, the landfilling option is often approached unjustly in these studies, maybe disregarding the remarkable technological improvements that landfills have undergone in the last decades in many parts of the world.This study, by means of LCA-modelling, aims at comparing the environmental performance of three major management options (landfilling, recycling and incineration or composting) for a number of individual waste fractions. The landfilling option is here approached comprehensively, accounting for all technical and environmental factors involved, including energy generation from landfill gas and storage of biogenic carbon. Leachate and gas emissions associated to each individual waste fraction have been estimated by means of a mathematical modelling. This approach towards landfilling emissions allows for a more precise quantification of the landfill impacts when comparing management options for selected waste fractions.Results from the life-cycle impact assessment (LCIA) show that the environmental performance estimated for landfilling with energy recovery of the fractions “organics” and “recyclable paper” is comparable with composting (for “organics”) and incineration (for “recyclable paper”). This however requires high degree of control over gas and leachate emissions, high gas collection efficiency and extensive gas utilization at the landfill. For the other waste fractions, recycling and incineration are favourable, although specific emissions of a variety of toxic compounds (VOCs, PAHs, NOx, heavy metals, etc.) may significantly worsen their environmental performance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Volume55
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)995-1004
ISSN0921-3449
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • Incineration
  • Environmental performance
  • Life-cycle impact assessment
  • Individual waste fractions
  • Energy recovery
  • Composting
  • Recycling
  • Landfilling

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