Assessing the environmental impacts of municipal solid waste incineration in Mauritius from a life cycle perspective

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1 Abstract Assessing the environmental impacts of municipal solid waste incineration in Mauritius from a life cycle perspective G. Unmar 1*, R.Mohee 1 and M. Rughoonundun 1 1 Chemical and Environmental Engineering, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius 1* Corresponding author: Tel , Fax: The goal of this study was to assess the environmental impacts associated with the disposal of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in Mauritius through incineration and landfilling from a life cycle perspective. Two scenarios were considered; scenario baseline which considered the landfilling of the waste and Scenario 1 which considered waste incineration. The functional unit was defined as being the disposal of 300,000 tonnes of MSW in one year, while the system boundary that was considered, included the collection of MSW at source, transportation of MSW, incineration and landfilling. An inventory analysis was carried out by quantifying all the inflows and outflows of the different processes involved using mass and energy balances. Results obtained from the inventory analysis were assessed in terms of the following damage categories: human health, ecosystem quality, and climate change by using SimaPro software and Impact as the assessment method. A sensitivity analysis was also conducted by varying the waste composition being incinerated. It was found that waste transportation contributed the most to all the damage categories. Hence, it was assumed that the landfill would be found adjacent to the waste-to-energy plant. The results obtained showed that the disposal of MSW in landfills brought about the more significant impacts on human health, climate change and ecosystem degradation than incinerating the MSW in an incineration plant with energy recovery. Keywords: municipal solid wastes; incineration; landfilling; environmental impacts; damage categories. 1. INTRODUCTION Mauritius is an island state of 1,850 square kilometres and has a population of approximately 1.25 million inhabitants. The amount of municipal solid wastes (MSW) being generated on the island has increased drastically from 400 tons per day to 1200 tons per day. The sole sanitary landfill of the island can no longer cater for this increase in wastes. Alternative waste treatment options have to be developed to manage MSW in Mauritius. A project of composting 100,000 tons of wastes has been proposed by a private firm while another company, Gamma-Covanta proposed the setting up of a Waste-To-Energy facility to process 300,000 tons of wastes per annum so as to reduce the load on the landfill and at the same time produce electricity. The plant is estimated to have the capacity to satisfy approximately 6% of the electricity demand of the island. The proposal of Gamma-Covanta was however severely opposed by environmentalists who fear that the setting up of such a facility would be a serious threat to the environment. This study was therefore conducted to assess the environmental impacts associated with the disposal of 300,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste in one year through incineration and landfilling in Mauritius from a life cycle perspective. Proceedings of the 3 rd International CEMEPE & SECOTOX Conference Skiathos, June 19-24, 2011, ISBN

2 1.1 Literature review Life cycle assessment (LCA) has been used in many studies as an environmental tool for comparing different waste disposal options or management scenarios. A study carried out by [1] compared lanfilling with incineration and the results showed that incineration was a far better disposal route for MSW compared to landfilling. The score ascribed to landfill disposal of 608,819 tonnes of MSW was found to be 27,700,000 Pt, far higher than 15,900,000 Pt estimated for the same amount of MSW being incinerated. A similar study was undertaken in Tianjin, China, where the MSW Management system (which consisted of 48.9 % MSW being treated by incineration plants and 49.5% of MSW being disposed in landfills without LFG utilization) was compared with other six waste management options in terms of global warming potential [2]. It was found that 68% of the total GHG gases were from the landfills while 26% were from the WTE plants. The study also showed that a total of 39% reduction could be achieved if the LFG was utilized [2]. Incinerating all the waste was also found to be a good option with a 19% reduction in GHG gases. An LCA study conducted in Thailand, to compare incineration with landfilling [3]. The results showed that landfilling contributed the highest potentials to global warming and photochemical ozone formation due to methane emissions during waste degradation [3]. 2. MATERIALS AND METHODS 2.1 Goal & Scope of the study The goal of this study was to assess the environmental impacts associated with the disposal of 300,000 tons of MSW in one year through incineration and landfilling in Mauritius from a life cycle perspective. The functional unit was defined as the treatment of 300,000 tons of MSW in one year. The baseline Scenario (S0) consisted of the following processes: waste collection, transportation of the waste to the transfer station for compaction, the transportation of the compacted waste to the landfill and the landfilling of the waste. The processes involved in Scenario 1 (S1) are as demonstrated in Figure 1. A sensitivity analysis was also conducted by varying the waste composition being incinerated. Three scenarios were developed; involving the same processes as those in S1, but waste composition being incinerated were varied as shown in Table Inventory Analysis The main equation used for calculating emissions from the incinerator is as follows: As for avoided emissions, the Mauritius electricity supply mix (80% coal, 16% bagasse and 4% hydro) was determined. Emissions released into the atmosphere were also estimated using the following equation: 1098

3 Table 1: Definition of different scenarios Wastes incinerated Wastes landfilled Scenario 2 (S2) Yard, paper Kitchen, plastic, textile, metals & miscellaneous Scenario 3 (S3) Yard, kitchen, paper plastic, textile, metals & miscellaneous Scenario 4 (S4) Plastic, paper, textile Yard, kitchen, metals &, miscellaneous Figure 1: Process flow diagram of Scenario Life Cycle Impact Assessment After the inventory analysis, the inventory results were interpreted in terms of environmental impacts, by using the SimaPro software, which has been developed by PRE consultants and the method used was Impact The environmental impacts were grouped into the following damage categories: human health, ecosystem quality and climate change. 3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION The results obtained in this study showed that transportation contributed the most to all damage categories, for each scenario under study, for instance, in the category of human health, when it was considered that all the waste was landfilled, transportation contributed to 159,900 DALY while the 1099

4 landfill itself contributed to only 100 DALY. The biggest contribution (68%) to human health degradation and a contribution of 90% to ecosystem quality degradation were found to be from transportation [1]. Hence, it was assumed that the landfill would be situated adjacent to the wasteto-energy plant so that transportation would be a constant for all the scenarios and thus could be neglected. Figure 2: Human health impact (without transportation) Scenario 1 involved the combustion of all MSW constituents and only ash and metals were landfilled. Figure 2 shows that among the four scenarios, the incineration process in Scenario 1 contributed the least to human health. Also Scenario 1 involved a gross electricity production of 93,000 MWh by incinerating 288,000 tonnes of mixed waste, avoiding an equivalent of 125 DALY. A study showed that incinerating tonnes of MSW in Roma can produce a total of 867,000 MWh of electricity [4] while another study [1] showed that energy production by incinerating 580,000 tonnes of MSW in Italy can avoid 789 DALY. Figure 3 shows the contribution of the five scenarios to ecosystem quality. It can be seen that the highest negative impact to ecosystem quality was from the landfill scenario. The landfill process in S4 contributed more to ecosystem quality degradation as compared to scenarios 2 and 3. This was due to the fact that, in S4, only plastic, paper and textile were incinerated while the rest of the wastes were sent to the landfill. S1 were found to be the better option in terms of ecosystem quality degradation since it produced negligible impacts on the ecosystem and avoided damage to the ecosystem through the production of electricity by power plants. 1100

5 Figure 3: Ecosystem quality impact (without transportation) From Figure 4, it can be observed that the baseline scenario (S0) contributed the most to climate change, where 1,406 kg CO 2 equivalent was released per kg of waste being landfilled. Liamsanguan et al. (2008) showed 636 kg CO 2 equivalent was released from 1 kg of waste being landfilled. GHG generation from the incineration was remarkably lower than that of the landfilling scenario mainly because the global warming potential of methane is 21 times more than that of carbon dioxide [5]. The landfill process in Scenario 3 contributed the lowest to climate change while that in Scenario 4 contributed the highest. This was due to the fact that in Scenario 4 more waste was sent to the landfill, leading to the production of both methane and carbon dioxide. Scenario 4 also involved the incineration of plastic and textiles (78,000 tonnes), releasing significant amount of fossil carbon dioxide (122,083 tonnes). In Scenario 3, a higher fraction of the waste was incinerated (organic waste) with a smaller amount of plastics and textile, being sent to landfill. 1101

6 Figure 4: Climate change impact (without transportation) 4. CONCLUSION The incineration of 300,000 tonnes of MSW produced approximately 242,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide while landfilling the same amount of waste produced 19% more carbon dioxide. The study showed that incineration of MSW brought significant avoided impacts in many categories and particularly in the category of resource damage due to the process of energy production. Incineration of 300,000 tonnes of MSW was found to avoid the depletion of MJ of energy reserves. Scenario (S1) was found to contribute the least in terms of environmental damage. 5. REFERENCES [1] Morselli L., De Robertis C., Luzi, J., Passarini F.,Vassura I., Environmental impacts of waste incineration in a regional system (Emilia Romagna, Italy) evaluated from a lifecycle perspective. Journal of Hazardous Materials, 159 (2-3), [2] Zhao W., Van Der Voet E., Zhang Y., Huppes, G., Life cycle assessment of municipal solid waste management with regard to greenhouse gas emissions: Case study of Tianjin, China. Science of the Total Environment, 407, [3] Liansanguan C., Gheewala S.H., 2008b. The holistic impact of integrated solid waste management on greenhouse gas emissions in Phuket. Journal of Cleaner Production, 16, [4] Cherubini F., Bargigli S., Ulgiati S., Life cycle assessment of urban waste management: Energy performances and environmental impacts. The case of Rome, Italy. Journal of Waste Management, 28, [5] Arena U., Mastellone M.L.,Perugini F., The environmental performance of alternative solid waste management options: a life cycle assessment study. Chemical Engineering Journal, 96,

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