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Sustainability Considerations on the Valorization of Organic Waste

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Abstract

As global waste production rates are expected to continue rising during the following decennium, the development and selection of sustainable waste management solutions becomes more and more pressing. This chapter focuses on environmental sustainability considerations for organic waste management, comparing the principles of the waste hierarchy to results obtained in comparative case studies following the life cycle assessment (LCA) method, and reviewing the competitiveness of existing organic waste valorization systems. It can be concluded that the waste hierarchy is not sufficient for decision making in the field of organic waste valorization and that LCA studies are needed in order to avoid misconceptions. Furthermore, the referenced studies show that certain biowaste-based products are capable of competing with conventional processes, but these results cannot be generalized and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, as seemingly small differences can drastically change environmental impacts.

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Conference Paper
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This paper presents life-cycle-analysis (LCA) energy consumption (EC) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of China's current six biofuel pathways, which are: corn-derived ethanol (CE); cassava-derived ethanol (KE); sweet sorghum-derived ethanol (SE); soybean-derived bio-diesel (SB); jatropha fruit-derived bio-diesel (JB); and used cooking oil (UCO)-derived bio-diesel (UB). The tool utilized here is the WTW (Well-to-Wheels) module of Tsinghua-CA3EM model covering the entire lifecycle including: raw materials cultivation (or feedstock collection); fuel production; transportation and distribution; and application in automobile engines, compared with Conventional Petroleum-based gasoline and diesel Pathways (CPP). The results indicate: (1) the fossil energy inputs are about 1.0-1.5 times the energy contained in the fuel for the CE, SE and SB pathways, but 0.5-0.9 times for the KE, UB and JB pathways; (2) compared with CPP, the JB, KE and UB pathways can reduce both fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions; the CE and SB pathways can only reduce fossil fuel consumption, but increase GHG emission; the SE pathway increases not only fossil fuel consumption but also GHG emission; and (3) the main factors inducing high EC and GHG emission levels include: high EC levels during the fuel production stage and high fertilizer application rates during the planting of raw feedstocks. Conclusions are that of the aforementioned biofuel pathways in (the) People's Republic of China: (1) only the JB, KE and UB pathways have energy-saving merits as indicated by the LCA energy inputs and outputs; (2) compared with CPP, all but the SE pathway reduces fossil fuel consumption. However, the SB and CE pathway increase GHG emission; (3) all six displace petroleum by utilizing more coal; and (4) feedstock productivity levels must be increased, and there must be a reduction in fertilizer utilization and EC consumption during the cultivation and transportation stages in order to achieve the goals of energy balance and GHG emission reduction.
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Goal, Scope and Background In recent years several different approaches towards Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) have been developed. The purpose of this review is to compare these approaches in order to highlight methodological differences and general shortcomings. SLCA has several similarities with other social assessment tools, although, in order to limit the expanse of the review, only claims to address social impacts from an LCA-like framework are considered. Main FeaturesThe review is to a large extent based on conference proceedings and reports, which are not all easily accessible, since very little has been published on SLCA in the open literature. The review follows the methodological steps of the environmental LCA (ELCA) known from the ISO 14044 standard. ResultsThe review reveals a broad variety in how the approaches address the steps of the ELCA methodology, particularly in the choice and formulation of indicators. The indicators address a wide variety of issues; some approaches focus on impacts created in the very close proximity of the processes included in the product system, whereas others focus on the more remote societal consequences. Only very little focus has been given to the use stage in the product life cycle.Another very important difference among the proposals is their position towards the use of generic data. Several of the proposals argue that social impacts are connected to the conduct of the company leading to the conclusion that each individual company in the product chain has to be assessed, whereas others claim that generic data can give a sufficiently accurate picture of the associated social impacts. DiscussionThe SLCA approaches show that the perception of social impacts is very variable. An assessment focusing on social impacts created in the close proximity of the processes included in the product system will not necessarily point in the same direction as an assessment that focuses on the more societal consequences. This points toward the need to agree on the most relevant impacts to include in the SLCA in order to include the bulk of the situation.Regarding the use of generic data as a basis for the assessment, this obviously has an advantage over using site specific data in relation to practicality, although many authors behind the SLCA approaches claim that reasonable accuracy can only be gained through the use of site specific data. However, in this context, it is important to remember that the quality of site specific data is very dependent on the auditing approach and, therefore, not necessarily of high accuracy, and that generic data might be designed to take into account the location, sector, size and maybe ownership of a company and thereby in some cases give a reasonable impression of the social impacts that can be expected from the company performing the assessed process. Conclusions This review gives an overview of the present development of SLCA by presenting the existing approaches to SLCA and discussing how they address the methodological aspects in the ISO standardised ELCA framework. The authors found a multitude of different approaches with regard to nearly all steps in the SLCA methodology, thus reflecting that this is a very new and immature field of LCA. Recommendations and PerspectivesSLCA is in an early stage of development where consensus building still has a long way. Nevertheless, some agreement regarding which impacts are most relevant to include in the SLCA in order to cover the field sufficiently seems paramount if the SLCA is to gain any weight as a decision support tool. Furthermore, some assessment of the difference between site specific and generic data could give valuable perspectives on whether a reasonable accuracy can be gained from using generic data or whether the use of site specific data is mandatory and, if so, where it is most important.
Article
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Facing the increase of environmental concern in the water treatment field, stakeholders need reliable decision support tools to assess environmental performances of urban and industrial wastewater systems. To discuss how life cycle assessment (LCA) can be applied to wastewater treatment projects, such an assessment has been performed through a case study on a full-scale plant. Methodological issues that had to be dealt with are briefly exposed. Five life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methods have been used: CML 2000, Eco Indicator 99, EDIP 96, EPS and Ecopoints 97. Consistent assessment between these methods has been obtained for greenhouse effect, resources depletion and acidification. Eutrophication is correctly estimated if one looks at the potential impact of a treatment scenario but not at the characterization of the eutrophication state of a specific receiving stream. Work is needed concerning human toxicity as large discrepancies are noticed between the impact assessment methods.
Article
As circumstances of operating and maintenance activities for landfilling and composting in Tehran metropolis differ from those of cities in developed countries, it was concluded to have an environmental impact comparison between the current solid waste management (MSW) strategies: (1) landfill, and (2) composting plus landfill. Life cycle assessment (LCA) was used to compare these scenarios for MSW in Tehran, Iran. The Eco-Indicator 99 is applied as an impact assessment method considering surplus energy, climate change, acidification, respiratory effect, carcinogenesis, ecotoxicity and ozone layer depletion points of aspects. One ton of municipal solid waste of Tehran was selected as the functional unit. According to the comparisons, the composting plus landfill scenario causes less damage to human health in comparison to landfill scenario. However, its damages to both mineral and fossil resources as well as ecosystem quality are higher than the landfill scenario. Thus, the composting plus landfill scenario had a higher environmental impact than landfill scenario. However, an integrated waste management will ultimately be the most efficient approach in terms of both environmental and economic benefits. In this paper, a cost evaluation shows that the unit cost per ton of waste for the scenarios is 15.28 and 26.40 US$, respectively. Results show landfill scenario as the preferable option both in environmental and economic aspects for Tehran in the current situation.
Article
Proper management and recycling of huge volumes of food waste is one of the challenges faced by Singapore. Semakau island - the only offshore landfill of the nation - only accepts inert, inorganic solid waste and therefore a large bulk of food waste is directed to incinerators. A remaining small percent is sent for recycling via anaerobic digestion (AD), followed by composting of the digestate material. This article investigates the environmental performance of four food waste conversion scenarios - based on a life cycle assessment perspective - taking into account air emissions, useful energy from the incinerators and AD process, as well as carbon dioxide mitigation from the compost products derived from the digestate material and a proposed aerobic composting system. The life cycle impact results were generated for global warming, acidification, eutrophication, photochemical oxidation and energy use. The total normalized results showed that a small-scale proposed aerobic composting system is more environmentally favorable than incinerators, but less ideal compared to the AD process. By making full use of the AD's Recycling Phase II process alone, the Singapore Green Plan's 2012 aim to increase the recycling of food waste to 30% can easily be achieved, along with reduced global warming impacts.
Article
This paper traces the development of the life cycle costing (LCC) technique in the United States and classifies documented LCC literature by both model type and application. LCC was originally developed as a formal analysis tool by the US Department of Defense. It has now been successfully applied in the industrial and consumer segments. The scope and practice of LCC has been changing over the past few years. Literature in the field supports the idea that the LCC concept has evolved over the years to include facets of system effectiveness in addition to costs. It is also evident that LCC has developed more as a result of specific applications rather than hypothetical models. General system characteristics which contribute to the success of the LCC technique are also identified.
Article
Organic wastes are utilized in agriculture mainly for improving the soil physical and chemical properties and for nutrient sources for growing crops. The major source of organic waste used in agriculture is animal manure, but small amounts of food processing and other industrial wastes (along with municipal wastes) are also applied to land. In the last 35 years, and especially in the last 10 years, there have been increasing environmental regulations affecting farms that have resulted in more animal manure treatment options, and thus affecting characteristics of residues that are subsequently applied to land. Farms are being assessed for nutrient balances, with the entire nutrient and manure management system evaluated for best management alternatives. Because of inadequate available land on the animal farm in some cases, organic wastes must be treated and/or transported to other farms, or utilized for horticultural or other uses. This paper discusses the various factors and challenges for utilizing organic wastes in agriculture.
Article
The waste hierarchy is being widely discussed these days, not only by cost-benefit analysts, but a growing number of life cycle assessments (LCA) have also begun to question it. In this article, we investigate the handling of waste paper in Denmark and compare the present situation with scenarios of more waste being recycled, incinerated or consigned to landfill. The investigations are made in accordance with ISO 14040-43 and based on the newly launched methodology of consequential LCA and following the recent guidelines of the European Centre on Waste and Material Flows. The LCA concerns the Danish consumption of paper in 1999, totalling 1.2 million tons. The results of the investigation indicate that the waste hierarchy is reliable; from an environmental point of view recycling of paper is better than incineration and landfilling. For incineration, the reason for the advantage of landfilling mainly comes from the substitution of fossil fuels, when incinerators provide heat and electricity. For recycling, the advantage is related to the saved wood resources, which can be used for generating energy from wood, i.e., from renewable fuel which does not contribute to global warming.
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