Quantitative assessment of solid waste treatment systems in the industrial ecology perspective by exergy analysis

Jo P Dewulf, Herman R Van Langenhove
Environmental Science & Technology 2002 March 1, 36 (5): 1130-5
Solid waste treatment options (recycling, incineration, and landfilling; the two latter processes both with co-generation of heat and electricity) have been studied for cardboard, newspaper, polyethylene, poly(ethylene terephthalate), polypropylene, polystyrene, and poly(vinyl chloride) waste. The conversion processes have been analyzed in terms of the second law of thermodynamics. The analysis allows calculating the exergy (useful energy) embodied in conversion products that can be obtained from the required inputs for the treatment processes. Taking into account the waste materials and the resources to convert them, it proved that recycling is the most efficient option for polyethylene with an efficiency of 62.5% versus 43.6% for incineration and 0.9% for landfilling. Next, waste treatment has been put into the broader perspective of industrial ecology. Exergetic efficiencies of industrial metabolic options have been calculated. Here resources for manufacturing and converting solid products have been considered. Furthermore, selection of one type of conversion excludes the generation of other potential conversion products. Therefore, it has to be taken into account that these latter products still have to be produced starting from virgin resources. Recycling proved to be the most efficient strategy: the ratio eta between exergy embodied in all delivered products on one hand, and all exergy withdrawn from the ecosphere or from waste materials on the other hand, is the highest. For polyethylene, eta proved to be 0.568, whereas eta is 0.503 and 0.329 for incineration and landfilling, respectively. On the other hand, if R the ratio between exergy of delivered products on one hand and exergy of virgin materials on the other hand is calculated, the differences between the industrial metabolic options are larger. Recycling polyethylene showed a ratio R of 0.936, whereas ratios of 0.772 and 0.531 were found for incineration and landfilling, respectively. It has been shown that the exergy concept allows a quantitative comparison of different industrial metabolic options, contributing to a better assessment of sustainability of technology with respect to resource management.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Trending Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"