Importance of waste composition for Life Cycle Assessment of waste management solutions

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The composition of waste materials has fundamental influence on environmental emissions associated with waste treatment, recycling and disposal, and may play an important role also for the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of waste management solutions. However, very few assessments include effects of the waste composition and waste LCAs often rely on poorly justified data from secondary sources. This study systematically quantifiesy the influence and uncertainty on LCA results associated with selection of waste composition data. Three archetypal waste management scenarios were modelled with the waste LCA model EASETECH based on detailed waste composition data from the literature. The influence from waste composition data on the LCA results was quantified with a step-wise Global Sensitivity Analysis (GSA) approach involving contribution, sensitivity, uncertainty and discernibility analyses. The waste composition data contributed significantly to the LCA results and the uncertainty associated with these results. The importance of 405 individual waste properties was evaluated in comparison with 345 technology parameters. Overall, less than 10 physico-chemical properties dominated the output uncertainty of the LCA results, although these properties had low sensitivity in the model. Moreover, the uncertainties associated with the physico-chemical properties were responsible for output uncertainties that spanned from impacts to benefits. The GSA approach applied in this study constitutes a valuable tool for systematically assessing the importance of waste composition and for consciously collecting and using waste composition data within LCAs of waste management systems.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Pages (from-to)1180-1191
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Life cycle assessment
  • Waste compostion
  • Physico-chemical composition
  • Fractional compositon
  • Global sensitivity analysis
  • Uncertainty analysis

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