Life cycle assessment of disposal of residues from municipal solid waste incineration: Recycling of bottom ash in road construction or landfilling in Denmark evaluated in the ROAD-RES model

Harpa Birgisdottir, Gurbakhash Singh Bhander, Michael Zwicky Hauschild, Thomas Højlund Christensen

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Two disposal methods for MSWI bottom ash were assessed in a new life cycle assessment (LCA) model for road construction and disposal of residues. The two scenarios evaluated in the model were: (i) landfilling of bottom ash in a coastal landfill in Denmark and (ii) recycling of bottom ash as subbase layer in an asphalted secondary road. The LCA included resource and energy consumption, and emissions associated with upgrading of bottom ash, transport, landfilling processes, incorporation of bottom ash in road, substitution of natural gravel as road construction material and leaching of heavy metals and salts from bottom ash in road as well as in landfill. Environmental impacts associated with emissions to air, fresh surface water, marine surface water, groundwater and soil were aggregated into 12 environmental impact categories: Global Warming, Photochemical Ozone Formation, Nutrient Enrichment, Acidification, Stratospheric Ozone Depletion, Human Toxicity via air/water/soil, Ecotoxicity in water/soil, and a new impact category, Stored Ecotoxicity to water/soil that accounts for the presence of heavy metals and very persistent organic compounds that in the long-term might leach. Leaching of heavy metals and salts from bottom ash was estimated from a series of laboratory leaching tests. For both scenarios, Ecotoxicity(water) was, when evaluated for the first 100 yr, the most important among the twelve impact categories involved in the assessment. Human Toxicity(soil) was also important, especially for the Road scenario. When the long-term leaching of heavy metals from bottom ash was evaluated, based on the total content of heavy metals in bottom ash, all impact categories became negligible compared to the potential Stored Ecotoxicity, which was two orders of magnitudes greater than Ecotoxicity(water) was the constituent that gave the strongest contributions to the ecotoxicities. The most important resources consumed were clay as liner in landfill and the groundwater resource which was potentially spoiled due to leaching of salts from bottom ash in road. The difference in environmental impacts between landfilling and utilization of bottom ash in road was marginal when these alternatives were assessed in a life cycle perspective. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)S75-S84
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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