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Methodology of supporting decision-making of waste management with material flow analysis (MFA) and consequential life cycle assessment (CLCA): case study of waste paper recycling

2015 / Eva Sevigné-Itoiz, Carles M. Gasol, Joan Rieradevall, Xavier Gabarrell

Journal of Cleaner Production Volume 105, 15 October 2015, Pages 253-262, DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.07.026


  • Increasingly globalization of raw materials and waste makes waste management complex
  • New approaches to support decision-making in waste management are needed.
  • We conduct dynamic material flow analysis and consequential life cycle assessment.
  • GHG emissions varied depending on the marginal source considered and export.
  • Increase waste paper exports decrease GHG savings from recycling.

Abstract LCA studies on waste management have been promoted as they can help policy makers choose the best environmental options. However, the increasing globalization of raw materials and waste makes the optimization of waste management strategies and policies quite challenging. Therefore, new approaches are needed in order to identify the consequences of markets on the waste management systems. This paper concentrates on the quantification of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of recycling processes. The aim is to generate a comprehensive assessment of GHG emissions as a consequence of increasing the amount of material collected for recycling. Consequential life cycle assessment (CLCA) is an effective methodological framework for addressing GHG quantifications within market, but to properly perform and assess all of the market links between raw materials and waste, it is necessary to determine the cause-effect chains made up of physical flows. Thus, we propose integrating the methodologies of material flow analysis (MFA) and CLCA. We applied these methodologies to the paper and cardboard recycling system in Spain. The GHG results varied between ?36 kg CO2 eq. and ?317 kg CO2 eq. per ton of waste paper collected, depending on the quantity of waste paper exported and the source of marginal pulp considered. The cumulative energy demand (CED) was also calculated as complementary indicator. Similar trends as for GHG emissions were obtained. The future GHG quantifications should be based on the flows described by MFA analysis and should be quantified using CLCA because methodologies that accurately account for GHG are necessary for decision-making. Keywords Marginal virgin pulp; BEKP; Waste paper; Spain; Globalization