Life cycle assessment of waste incineration in Denmark and Italy using two LCA models

Roberto Turconi, Stefania Butera, Alessio Boldrin, Mario Grosso, Lucia Rigamonti, Thomas Astrup

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In Europe, about 20% of municipal solid waste is incinerated. Large differences can be found between northern and southern Europe regarding energy recovery efficiencies, flue gas cleaning technologies and residue management. Life-cycle assessment (LCA) of waste incineration often provides contradictory results if these local conditions are not properly accounted for. The importance of regional differences and site-specific data, and choice of LCA model itself, was evaluated by assessment of two waste incinerators representing northern and southern Europe (Denmark and Italy) based on two different LCA models (SimaPro and EASEWASTE). The results showed that assumptions and modelling approaches regarding energy recovery/substitution and direct air emissions were most critical. Differences in model design and model databases mainly had consequences for the toxicity-related impact categories. The overall environmental performance of the Danish system was better than the Italian, mainly because of higher heat recovery at the Danish plant. Flue gas cleaning at the Italian plant was, however, preferable to the Danish, indicating that efficient flue gas cleaning may provide significant benefits. Differences in waste composition between the two countries mainly affected global warming and human toxicity via water. Overall, SimaPro and EASEWASTE provided consistent ranking of the individual scenarios. However, important differences in results from the two models were related to differences in the databases and modelling approaches, in particular the possibility for modelling of waste-specific emissions affected the toxicity-related impact categories. The results clearly showed that the use of site-specific data was essential for the results.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management and Research
Issue number10 suppl.
Pages (from-to)78-90
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Air emissions
  • Energy recovery
  • LCA
  • Waste incineration
  • Life-cycle assessment


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