Greenhouse gas emission mitigation relevant to changes in municipal solid waste management system

Krzysztof PikoĊ„, Krzysztof Gaska
Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association 2010, 60 (7): 782-8
Standard methods for assessing the environmental impact of waste management systems are needed to underpin the development and implementation of sustainable waste management practice. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool for comprehensively ensuring such assessment and covers all impacts associated with waste management. LCA is often called "from cradle to grave" analysis. This paper integrates information on the greenhouse gas (GHG) implications of various management options for some of the most common materials in municipal solid waste (MSW). Different waste treatment options for MSW were studied in a system analysis. Different combinations of recycling (cardboard, plastics, glass, metals), biological treatment (composting), and incineration as well as land-filling were studied. The index of environmental burden in the global warming impact category was calculated. The calculations are based on LCA methodology. All emissions taking place in the whole life cycle system were taken into account. The analysis included "own emissions," or emissions from the system at all stages of the life cycle, and "linked emissions," or emissions from other sources linked with the system in an indirect way. Avoided emissions caused by recycling and energy recovery were included in the analysis. Displaced emissions of GHGs originate from the substitution of energy or materials derived from waste for alternative sources. The complex analysis of the environmental impact of municipal waste management systems before and after application of changes in MSW systems according to European Union regulations is presented in this paper. The evaluation is made for MSW systems in Poland.

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