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Life cycle assessment of energy from solid waste - part 1: general methodology and results
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies.
2005 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, Vol. 13, no 3, 213-229 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The overall goal of the present study is to evaluate different strategies for treatment of solid waste in Sweden based on a life cycle perspective. Important goals are to identify advantages and disadvantages of different methods for treatment of solid waste, and to identify critical factors in the systems, including the background systems, which may significantly influence the results. Included in the study are landfilling, incineration, recycling, digestion and composting. The waste fractions considered are the combustible and recyclable or compostable fractions of municipal solid waste. The methodology used is life cycle assessment (LCA). The results can be used for policy decisions as well as strategic decisions on waste management systems. A waste hierarchy suggesting the environmental preference of recycling over incineration over landfilling is often put forward and used in waste policy making. LCAs can be used to test the waste hierarchy and identify situations where the hierarchy is not valid. Our results indicate that the waste hierarchy is valid as a rule of thumb. The results also suggest that a policy promoting recycling of paper and plastic materials, preferably combined with policies promoting the use of plastics replacing plastics made from virgin materials, leads to decreased use of total energy and emissions of gases contributing to global warming. If the waste can replace oil or coal as energy sources, and neither biofuels nor natural gas are alternatives, a policy promoting incineration of paper materials may be successful in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2005. Vol. 13, no 3, 213-229 p.
Keyword [en]
Life cycle assessment, Waste management, Incineration, Landfilling, Recycling
National Category
Engineering and Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5560DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2004.02.023ISI: 000225529700002ScopusID: 2-s2.0-8344264614OAI: diva2:9963
QC 20100610Available from: 2006-04-06 Created: 2006-04-06 Last updated: 2011-11-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Environmental systems analysis tools for decision-making: LCA and Swedish waste management as an example
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental systems analysis tools for decision-making: LCA and Swedish waste management as an example
2006 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other scientific)
Abstract [en]

Decisions are made based on information of different kinds. Several tools have been developed to facilitate the inclusion of environmental aspects in decision-making on different levels. Which tool to use in a specific decision-making situation depends on the decision context. This thesis discusses the choice between different environmental systems analysis (ESA) tools and suggests that key factors influencing the choice of ESA tool are object of study, impacts considered and information type regarding sitespecificity and according to the DPSIR-framework.

Waste management in Sweden is used as an example to illustrate decision-making situations, but discussions concerning choice of tools are also thought to be of general concern. It is suggested that there is a need for a number of ESA tools in waste management decision-making. Procedural tools like Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) should be used e.g. by companies applying for development of waste management facilities and by public authorities preparing plans and programmes. Within these procedural tools analytical tools providing relevant information could be used, e.g. Risk Assessment (RA), Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) or Substance Flow Analysis (SFA). Analytical tools may also be used separately. If the decision-making situation concerns a choice between different waste management options, such as recycling, incineration and landfilling, environmental aspects could be assessed using LCA or Material Input Per unit Service (MIPS). To study certain substances within the waste system, RA or SFA could be used.

An LCA of different strategies for treatment of municipal solid waste was made. A conclusion from this study is that the waste hierarchy is valid as a rule of thumb. Suggestions resulting from this study are that decisions promoting recycling of paper and plastics should be pursued, preferably in combination with decisions promoting the use of plastics replacing plastics made from virgin sources. The study further identifies a need for limiting transportation by private car for options requiring source separation of waste. When recycling is not an alternative, incineration is in general preferable to landfilling. Key issues that may affect the ranking of the waste treatment options include alternative energy sources, the material the recycled material replaces and the time perspective chosen.

It is suggested that LCA may be a useful tool in waste management, both on its own and as a part of an SEA. Results from LCAs can provide advice on ranking of alternatives. More importantly, key assumptions and value choices that may influence the rankings can be highlighted and thus made clear to the decision-makers. In general, LCA results are not site-specific and provide information in the form of potential environmental impacts, and thus could be combined with other tools if other type of information is needed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH, 2006. 56 p.
Trita-SOM , ISSN 1653-6126 ; 06:002
National Category
Civil Engineering
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-3904 (URN)91-7178-304-0 (ISBN)
2006-04-07, Sal L43, KTH, Drottning Kristinas väg 30, Stockholm, 10:00
QC 20100610Available from: 2006-04-06 Created: 2006-04-06 Last updated: 2010-06-10Bibliographically approved

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