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Environmental systems analysis tools for decision-making: LCA and Swedish waste management as an example
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategic Analysis.
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.
Series
Trita-SOM , ISSN 1653-6126 ; 06:002
National Category
Civil Engineering
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-3904ISBN: 91-7178-304-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-3904DiVA: diva2:9966
Presentation
2006-04-07, Sal L43, KTH, Drottning Kristinas väg 30, Stockholm, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
QC 20100610Available from: 2006-04-06 Created: 2006-04-06 Last updated: 2010-06-10Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Environmental systems analysis tools: an overview
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental systems analysis tools: an overview
2005 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 13, no 12, 1165-1173 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A large number of tools for assessing environmental impacts are available. It is of interest to characterise different tools in order to better understand their relationships and the appropriateness of different tools in different situations. The characteristics used here are whether the tools are procedural or analytical, what types of impacts are included, what the object of the study is and whether the studies are descriptive or change-orientated. For each object discussed here, there is a tool focusing on both use of natural resources and environmental impacts that seems to be the most suitable. Because different tools focus on different objects, different tools cannot in general easily replace each other.

Keyword
Decision making, Environmental protection, Life cycle, Natural resources, Project management, Societies and institutions
National Category
Other Environmental Engineering
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5559 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2004.06.004 (DOI)000230017300005 ()2-s2.0-15544380518 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100610Available from: 2006-04-06 Created: 2006-04-06 Last updated: 2017-11-21Bibliographically approved
2. Life cycle assessment of energy from solid waste - part 1: general methodology and results
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Life cycle assessment of energy from solid waste - part 1: general methodology and results
2005 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, 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.

Keyword
Life cycle assessment, Waste management, Incineration, Landfilling, Recycling
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5560 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2004.02.023 (DOI)000225529700002 ()2-s2.0-8344264614 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100610Available from: 2006-04-06 Created: 2006-04-06 Last updated: 2017-11-21Bibliographically approved
3. Life cycle assessment of energy from solid waste - part 2: landfilling compared to other treatment methods
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Life cycle assessment of energy from solid waste - part 2: landfilling compared to other treatment methods
2005 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 13, no 3, 231-240 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In the present paper, the validity of the waste hierarchy for treatment of solid waste is tested. This is done by using the tool life cycle assessment on recycling, incineration with heat recovery and landfilling of recyclable waste for Swedish conditions. A waste hierarchy suggesting the environmental preference of recycling over incineration over landfilling is found to be valid as a rule of thumb. There are however assumptions and value choices that can be made that make landfilling more preferable. This is the case for some waste fractions and for some of the environmental impacts studied when only a limited time period is considered. When transportation of waste by passenger car from the households is assumed for the other treatment options but not for landfilling, landfilling also gains in preference in some cases. The paper concludes that assumptions made including value choices with ethical aspects are of importance when ranking waste treatment options. Uncertainties related to the assessment of toxicological impacts can also influence the conclusions.

Keyword
Landfill, Life cycle assessment, Waste, Hierarchy, Time perspective, Carbon sink, Transport
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5561 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2004.02.025 (DOI)000225529700003 ()2-s2.0-8344234996 (Scopus ID)
Note
QC 20100610Available from: 2006-04-06 Created: 2006-04-06 Last updated: 2017-11-21Bibliographically approved
4. Strategic environmental assessment methodologies: applications within the energy sector
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Strategic environmental assessment methodologies: applications within the energy sector
Show others...
2003 (English)In: Environmental impact assessment review, ISSN 0195-9255, E-ISSN 1873-6432, Vol. 23, no 1, 91-123 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a procedural tool and within the framework of SEA, several different types of analytical tools can be used in the assessment. Several analytical tools are presented and their relation to SEA is discussed including methods for future studies, Life Cycle Assessment, Risk Assessment, Economic Valuation and Multi-Attribute Approaches. A framework for the integration of some analytical tools in the SEA process is suggested. It is noted that the available analytical tools primarily cover some types of environmental impacts related to emissions of pollutants. Tools covering impacts on ecosystems and landscapes are more limited. The relation between application and choice of analytical tools is discussed. It is suggested that SEAs used to support a choice between different alternatives require more quantitative methods, whereas SEAs used to identify critical aspects and suggest mitigation strategies can suffice with more qualitative methods. The possible and desired degree of site-specificity in the assessment can also influence the choice of methods. It is also suggested that values and world views can be of importance for judging whether different types of tools and results are meaningful and useful. Since values and world views differ between different stakeholders, consultation and understanding are important to ensure credibility and relevance.

Keyword
Strategic environmental assessment; Applications; Energy sector
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-5562 (URN)10.1016/S0195-9255(02)00089-6 (DOI)
Note

QC 20100610

Available from: 2006-04-06 Created: 2006-04-06 Last updated: 2017-11-21Bibliographically approved

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