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Environmental sustainability assessment methodology for waste management planning

Within LCA-IWM project Environmental sustainability and LCA-based criteria for waste management planning and assessment were developed.

The main source of environmental assessment system is the Project Consortium understanding of environmental sustainability and the European waste policy. A first step towards determining indicators for assessment Waste Management Systems (EnSWM) defining the Environmental Sustainability in waste management.

This resulted in the expression of EnSWM through two major objectives:
- Conservation of resources and
- pollution prevention.

For detailed assessment of environmental sustainability and implementation of general targets of European waste policy with regard to protection of the environment and human health, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)-based methodology has been proposed. Principles of streamlined LCA have been used to identify waste management relevant LCA impact categories. Based on a full LCA modelling with an existing LCA software tool (Umberto ©) for a case study waste management system impact categories most relevant for waste management have been selected. This selection is done through normalisation of the environmental impacts arising from waste management to the total environmental impacts on a Western European level within baseline Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) categories. The categories in which waste management has the highest contribution to total impact are selected as relevant for environmental assessment. The LCIA is based on the CML 2001 method. LCIA categories identified to be relevant for waste management are:
- Depletion of abiotic resources
- Climate change
- Human toxicity
- Photo-oxidant formation
- Acidification
- Eutrophication

Another group of environmental assessment criteria are European policy-based criteria. Selection of these criteria and definition of their calculation algorithms was performed by nova Tec in cooperation with TUD. Selected policy-based criteria are based on specific targets of European waste policy, i.e. packaging recovery and recycling targets and the diversion of biodegradable waste fraction from land filling. Targets related to waste electric and electronic equipment and hazardous waste are only partly considered in this project.

A further work was focussed on developing calculation methods for environmental impact indicators and aggregation methods for the final results.

Apart from designed assessment criteria and indicators a substantial work was concerned with modelling of standard waste management modules in order to provide inventory data for criteria and modules. The waste management modules describe default technologies that will be used for the modelling and assessment of waste management scenarios. The modules provide default data on processes, their mass balances and emissions inventories, which are the basis for the modules.

The following modules have been developed:
Temporary Storage, Composting, Digestion, aerobic and anaerobic Mechanical-Biological Pre-treatment of residual waste, Incineration, Land filling and Recycling of: Paper & Cardboard, Glass, WEEE, Plastics, Packaging and Mixed Dry Recyclables. The individual modules of waste treatment facilities are used as a basis for waste management assessment model.

Reported by

Technische Universität Darmstadt, Institute WAR
Petersenstr. 13
64287 Darmstadt
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