October 27, 2021
9:30 am – 11:00 am US EDT (15:30 – 17:00 CEST)


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Why do we still need LCA-modelling in waste management?

Thomas H. Christensen
Department of Environmental Engineering
Technical University of Denmark
2800 Lyngby, Denmark

Life-cycle-assessment (LCA) has been used in waste management for the last two decades and more than 400 journal papers have been published on this topic. The use of LCA in waste management has provided an improved holistic view of waste management including waste flows and technical issues. Much knowledge also has been obtained on the environmental impacts of waste management, and the question arises if we still need to do LCA-modelling of waste management. LCA-models are complex, demanding regarding data and costly to do if used on issues with more stakeholders and interests. So why continue using waste LCA-models?

This presentation describes, using examples from published studies, six areas where LCA is expected to play a role in waste management in the future: 1) Understanding an existing waste management system, 2) Improving existing waste management systems, 3) Comparing alternative technologies/ technology performance, 4) Technology development/ prospective technologies, 5) Policy development/strategic development, and 6) Reporting.

This presentation also discusses some of the challenges that waste LCA-modelling is facing in the future. Where building of large technological facilities is part of the scenarios, a long time horizon must be considered – maybe 30 years. In such a long time horizon, major changes in society will take place, for example, regarding products being discarded, consumer behavior, energy systems and industrial production involving secondary materials. The former affects the input to the waste management system and the latter affects the benefits obtained from recovering materials, energy and nutrients. These complex issue, which are introduced during the presentation, will challenge how we make waste LCA-modeling in the future.