Paper waste - Recycling, incineration or landfilling? A review of existing life cycle assessments

Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Capital Region, Denmark
Waste Management (Impact Factor: 3.22). 02/2007; 27(8):S29-46. DOI: 10.1016/j.wasman.2007.02.019
Source: PubMed


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.

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    • "Some types of paper, such as security paper, must be made from virgin pulp. New and long fibers have to be added to the paper system in order to ensure quality, as recycled waste paper is not suitable (Villanueva and Wenzel, 2007). Fibers become too short for further recycling after a maximum of six to seven cycles. "
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    ABSTRACT: The goal of this work was to develop Fourier-transform-near-infrared-spectroscopy-based methodology for monitoring kinetics and estimating the biodegradation rate of coniferous pulp paper. Two experiments with paper-degrading fungi were tested: one with Chaetomium globosum alone and the other with a mixture of Aspergillus niger, Trichoderma viride, and Penicillium funiculosum. Paper sheets made of fibers with the addition of 0, 2, 3, or 5% of cationic starch and resinous adhesive were used as test samples. In order to quantify the resistance of the paper to biodegradation, tests of breaking length and evaluation of the degree of fungal infestation were performed during infestation. It was found that addition of cationic starch and resin adhesives improved mechanical properties of paper; however, it also increased susceptibility to fungal colonization. Degradation of paper colonized by C. globosum was more advanced and exhibited more rapid kinetics. Spectral analysis revealed that spectra were most varying in bands 4283, 4400, 4742, and 4808 cm−1, which correspond to –CH, and –OH functional groups of cellulose and hemicelluloses. Differences in spectra were in good agreement with the reference methods; therefore this technique has potential for monitoring the paper biodegradation process and predicting changes in the paper's mechanical properties.
    International Biodeterioration & Biodegradation 11/2014; 97. DOI:10.1016/j.ibiod.2014.09.019 · 2.13 Impact Factor
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    • "Assamoi and Lawryshyn (2012) demonstrated that incineration is more environmentally sound than landfilling even though treatment costs are higher, whereas Ruth (1998) showed that fuel from MSW can successfully substitute for coal in thermal electric power plants. Several life cycle assessment (LCA) analyses have also been performed for different management options for paper, plastic and glass (Blengini et al., 2012; Moberg et al., 2005; Wang et al., 2012; Villanueva and Wenzel, 2007), showing that recycling remains the most environmentally sound method. Zhao et al. (2009), Antonopoulos et al. (2013) proposed LCA analysis for different waste management options at the urban and regional scale. "
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    ABSTRACT: Life cycle analysis of several waste management scenarios for an Italian urban area was performed on the basis of different source segregation collection (SS) intensities from 0% up to 52%. Source segregated waste was recycled and or/recovered by composting. Residual waste management options were by landfilling, incineration with energy recovery or solid recovered fuel (SRF) production to substitute for coal. The increase in fuel and materials consumption due to increase in SS had negligible influence on the environmental impact of the system. Recycling operations such as incineration and SRF were always advantageous for impact reduction. There was lower impact for an SS of 52% even though the difference with the SS intensity of 35% was quite limited, about 15%. In all the configurations analyzed, the best environmental performance was achieved for the management system producing SRF by the biodrying process.
    Waste Management 07/2014; 34(11). DOI:10.1016/j.wasman.2014.06.007 · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    • "In addition to the aforementioned P-LCA-based waste management systems' environmental impact assessment frameworks, several studies have also been conducted by using P-LCA methodology , where the main focus was solely on the process-specific environmental impacts of waste management systems. Examples include McDougall and Hruska (2000), Christensen et al. (2007), Finnveden et al. (2007), Thorneloe et al. (2007), Villanueva and Wenzel (2007), Merrild et al. (2008), Eisted et al. (2009), Damgaard et al. (2009), Astrup et al. (2009), Larsen et al. (2009), Johnson et al. (2008), Manfredi and Christensen (2009), Ortiz et al. (2010), Coelho and de Brito (2013), and (Song et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: Waste management in construction is critical for the sustainable treatment of building-related construction and demolition (C&D) waste materials, and recycling of these wastes has been considered as one of the best strategies in minimization of C&D debris. However, recycling of C&D materials may not always be a feasible strategy for every waste type and therefore recycling and other waste treatment strategies should be supported by robust decision-making models. With the aim of assessing the net carbon, energy, and water footprints of C&D recycling and other waste management alternatives, a comprehensive economic input-output-based hybrid life-cycle assessment model is developed by tracing all of the economy-wide supply-chain impacts of three waste management strategies: recycling, landfilling, and incineration. Analysis results showed that only the recycling of construction materials provided positive environmental footprint savings in terms of carbon, energy, and water footprints. Incineration is a better option as a secondary strategy after recycling for water and energy footprint categories, whereas landfilling is found to be as slightly better strategy when carbon footprint is considered as the main focus of comparison. In terms of construction materials' environmental footprint, nonferrous metals are found to have a significant environmental footprint reduction potential if recycled.
    Waste Management & Research 05/2014; 32(6). DOI:10.1177/0734242X14536457 · 1.30 Impact Factor
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