Life cycle assessment
Economic activities that we undertake, including waste management technologies, affect the state of the environment, which we are closely bound to. Life cycle assessment (LCA) helps understanding where the environmental impacts of products and processes come from and helps to optimize them.
LCA is, therefore, a method for modelling the whole life cycle of a product or a service and evaluating it based on the function it fulfils. It is a comparative tool used to assess the environmental performance of a product/service with alternatives available.
LCA helps to communicate the environmental performance of a product or service, such as waste treatment. It enables creating a holistic picture of the system in which this treatment is being provided, by integrating the following aspects:
Vertical impact assessment
Assessment from cradle to grave
Avoidance of problem shifting
Time and space integration
Considering the product duration
Locating the emissions to the environment
Horizontal impact assessment
Evaluation of all types of impact,
e.g. climate change, human health,
ecotoxicity, resource depletion
ISO 14040 series
Additionally, conducting an LCA is a legal requirement under LAP3, in order to justify one's choice of waste treatment technology.
Waste4ME and LCA
Thanks to our holistic pre-screening process, which involves a legal and environmental check, an economic business case and a technical check, at Waste4ME, we have a good overview of the waste business. This overview includes the relevant legislation and stakeholders, trading procedures, permit applications, economic value of inputs and outputs, but also the physical process of waste separation and pyrolysis. A part of the knowledge concerning this physical process is information on machinery and its energy requirements, and also emissions to the environment, certified by a third party.
At the same time, the environment concerning the waste business in the Netherlands is a dynamic one, defined and revised by the Dutch legislation. In 2017, the so-called LAP3 (Het Landelijk AfvalbeheerPlan 3) was put into use. This document specifies the ways of managing waste streams and the order in which they should be applied. The LAP3 requires disposing of waste in a hierarchical way, choosing for the most environmentally sustainable technology. But with the multitude of technologies available, which one is the most sustainable for which situation? In order to determine this, LAP3 requires a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to be undertaken, demonstrating the impact on the environment. This way, the preferred technology can be chosen.
Understanding the need for LCAs, Waste4ME decided to take advantage of its rich knowledge of the waste context and started offering LCA studies as a service. The company's team consists of LCA experts, engineers and legal advisers, collaboration of whom allows to examine real-life industrial processes and to determine the Best Available Technology (BAT).
An example of LCA application in the waste industry
In response to stricter governmental legislation, Dutch mattress industry undertook an LCA study on environmental benefits of pyrolysis compared to incineration or other, more financially intense treatment strategy.
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