Use of life cycle assessment as decision-support tool for water reuse and handling of residues at a Danish industrial laundry

Kim Jørgensen, Alejandro Villanueva, Henrik Wenzel

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    This analysis presents the results of a life cycle assessment (LCA) carried out on six alternative options for the recycling of water at a Danish industrial laundry for workwear. The study focuses on the handling and disposal of the wet residues generated when wastewater is treated for recycling, and in accounting for long-term potential toxicity impacts. The analysed options are a combination of two water-upgrading technologies: biofilter and ultrafiltration, and three residue disposal alternatives: biogas followed by incineration of sludge at local wastewater treatment plant, thermal vitrification treatment for production of vitrified sand, and mineralization in a sludge bed. It is concluded from the results that with the current Danish environmental policy priorities, the environmental impacts of highest priority are the toxicity effects derived from the presence of heavy metals in the residues. Heavy metals originate from the dirt in the workwear that is washed in the laundry. It is further concluded that the studied water treatment technologies satisfy both the need of clean water for recycling and simultaneously help controlling a safe disposal of pollutants by concentration of the residues. The results of the study also confirm the potential of LCA as a decision-support tool for assisting water recycling initiatives and for residue handling management. The handling of residues has been identified as a stage of the water recycling strategy that bears important environmental impacts. This holistic perspective provided by LCA can be used as input for the definition of environmental management strategies at an industrial laundry, and the prioritization of investments to the environmental profile of laundry processes. In this case-study, the results of the LCA are made operational by, for example, selecting the water treatment technology which is associated wih a safe disposal of the wet residue. It is important to bear in mind that such prioritization depends on national boundary conditions. In the case study analysed, the boundary conditions steer the weighing of the environmental impacts, following the current Danish environmental policy priorities.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalWaste Management and Research
    Volume22
    Pages (from-to)334-345
    ISSN0734-242X
    Publication statusPublished - 2004

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