Environmental impact assessment of the incineration of municipal solid waste with auxiliary coal in China

Yan Zhao, Wei Xing, Wenjing Lu, Xu Zhang, Thomas Højlund Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


The environmental impacts of waste incineration with auxiliary coal were investigated using the life-cycle-based software, EASEWASTE, based on the municipal solid waste (MSW) management system in Shuozhou City. In the current system, MSW is collected, transported, and incinerated with 250kg of coal per ton of waste. Based on observed environmental impacts of incineration, fossil CO2 and heavy metals were primary contributors to global warming and ecotoxicity in soil, respectively. Compared with incinerators using excess coal, incineration with adequate coal presents significant benefits in mitigating global warming, whereas incineration with a mass of coal can avoid more impacts to acidification, photochemical ozone and nutrient enrichment because of increased electricity substitution and reduced emission from coal power plants. The “Emission standard of air pollutants for thermal power plants (GB13223-2011)” implemented in 2012 introduced stricter policies on controlling SO2 and NOx emissions from coal power plants. Thus, increased use of auxiliary coal during incineration yields fewer avoided impacts on acidification and nutrient enrichment. When two-thirds of ash is source-separated and landfilled, the incineration of rest-waste presents better results on global warming, acidification, nutrient enrichment, and even ecotoxicity in soil. This process is considered a promising solution for MSW management in Shuozhou City. Weighted normalized environmental impacts were assessed based on Chinese political reduction targets. Results indicate that heavy metal and acidic gas emissions should be given more attention in waste incineration. This study provides scientific support for the management of MSW systems dominated by incineration with auxiliary coal in China.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1989-1998
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Environmental impact
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Municipal solid waste (MSW)
  • Incineration
  • Auxiliary coal


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