Paper waste - Recycling, incineration or landfilling? A review of existing life cycle assessments
ABSTRACT A review of existing life cycle assessments (LCAs) on paper and cardboard waste has been undertaken. The objectives of the review were threefold. Firstly, to see whether a consistent message comes out of published LCA literature on optimum disposal or recycling solutions for this waste type. Such message has implications for current policy formulation on material recycling and disposal in the EU. Secondly, to identify key methodological issues of paper waste management LCAs, and enlighten the influence of such issues on the conclusions of the LCA studies. Thirdly, in light of the analysis made, to discuss whether it is at all valid to use the LCA methodology in its current development state to guide policy decisions on paper waste. A total of nine LCA studies containing altogether 73 scenarios were selected from a thorough, international literature search. The selected studies are LCAs including comparisons of different management options for waste paper. Despite claims of inconsistency, the LCAs reviewed illustrate the environmental benefits in recycling over incineration or landfill options, for paper and cardboard waste. This broad consensus was found despite differences in geographic location and definitions of the paper recycling/disposal systems studied. A systematic exploration of the LCA studies showed, however, important methodological pitfalls and sources of error, mainly concerning differences in the definition of the system boundaries. Fifteen key assumptions were identified that cover the three paper cycle system areas: raw materials and forestry, paper production, and disposal/recovery. It was found that the outcome of the individual LCA studies largely depended on the choices made in some of these assumptions, most specifically the ones concerning energy use and generation, and forestry.
Sustainability 12/2012; 4(12):2586-2610. DOI:10.3390/su4102586 · 1.08 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Paper product manufacturing involves a variety of chemicals used either directly in paper and pulp production or in the conversion processes (i.e. printing, gluing) that follow. Due to economic and environmental initiatives, paper recycling rates continue to rise. In Europe, recycling has increased by nearly 20% within the last decade or so, reaching a level of almost 72% in 2012. With increasing recycling rates, lower quality paper fractions may be included. This may potentially lead to accumulation or un-intended spreading of chemical substances contained in paper, e.g. by introducing chemicals contained in waste paper into the recycling loop. This study provides an overview of chemicals potentially present in paper and applies a sequential hazard screening procedure based on the intrinsic hazard, physical-chemical and biodegradability characteristics of the substances. Based on the results, 51 substances were identified as potentially critical (selected mineral oils, phthalates, phenols, parabens, as well as other groups of chemicals) in relation to paper recycling. It is recommended that these substances receive more attention in waste paper. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Waste Management 03/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.wasman.2015.02.028 · 3.16 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Municipal solid waste (MSW) management remains a challenge, even in Europe where several countries now possess capacity to treat all arising MSW, while others still rely on unsustainable disposal pathways. In the former, strategies to reach higher recycling levels are affecting existing waste-to-energy (WtE) treatment infrastructure, by inducing additional overcapacity and this in turn rebounds as pressure on the waste and recyclable materials markets. This study addresses such situations by documenting the effects, in terms of resource recovery, global warming potential (GWP) and cumulative energy demand (CED), of a transition from a self-sufficient waste management system based on minimal separate collection and efficient WtE, towards a system with extended separate collection of recyclable materials and biowaste. In doing so, it tackles key questions: (1) whether recycling and biological treatment are environmentally better compared to highly efficient WtE, and (2) what are the implications of overcapacity-related cascading effects, namely waste import, when included in the comparison of alternative waste management systems. System changes, such as the implementation of kerbside separate collection of recyclable materials were found to significantly increase material recovery, besides leading to substantial GWP and CED savings in comparison to the WtE-based system. Bio-waste separate collection contributed with additional savings when co-digested with manure, and even more significantly when considering future renewable energy background systems reflecting the benefits induced by the flexible use of biogas. Given the current liberalization of trade in combustible waste in Europe, waste landfilling was identified as a short-to-medium-term European-wide waste management marginal reacting to overcapacity effects induced by the implementation of increased recycling strategies. When waste import and, consequently, avoided landfilling were included in the system boundary, additional savings of up to 700 kg CO2 eq. and 16 GJ eq. of primary energy per tonne of imported waste were established. Conditions, such as energy recovery efficiency, and thresholds beyond which import-related savings potentially turn into GWP burdens were also determined. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Journal of Environmental Management 07/2015; 157:69-83. DOI:10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.04.008 · 3.19 Impact Factor