The Future of Biodegradable Waste Management in the UK

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Title: The Future of Biodegradable Waste Management in the UK
Authors: Donovan, Sally
Item Type: Thesis or dissertation
Abstract: The WRATE LCA model was used to compare the environmental impacts of incineration and MBT to landfilling residual household waste, using The London Borough of Barnet as a case study. Incineration performed best, followed by MBT processes that produced fuel. MBT that produced stabilised material for landfill showed little advantage over landfilling directly. The applicability of the internationally obtained WRATE dataset to the UK was assessed by analysing samples of UK MBT outputs for biological content. These results were used in GasSim to produce long-term gas emission profiles from a landfill. Total gas emissions were reduced, but the timescale of emissions was similar to untreated waste presenting a challenge to landfill management. The WRATE model assumes products resulting from MBT will be used for their intended purpose, however, an assessment of the potential UK market was lacking. Interviews with representatives from relevant industries and a literature review were conducted to fill this data gap. It was found that approximately half of the biodegradable household waste produced annually could be used as SRF, depending on reliability, and competition with other renewable fuels. The use of MBT outputs as a soil conditioner is less likely in the current regulatory framework, however, ongoing trials may prove that it's safe to use, significantly increasing the potential market. GHG emissions from application to land, which has been overlooked in previous research, was addressed using UK samples. A common flux chamber technique was successfully adapted for this new purpose. The dependence of the perceived environmental benefit of incineration and SRF use on the fuels used to generate electricity was modelled and found to be significant, especially for incineration, which in one case had a similar impact to landfilling. Limitations to using LCA for waste management decision-making are discussed and alternative approaches considered. Opportunities for prevention of biodegradable wastes are considered significant.
Issue Date: 2010
Date Awarded: Jul-2011
Supervisor: Voulvoulis, Nikolaos
Gronow, Jan
Author: Donovan, Sally
Department: Centre for Environmental Policy
Publisher: Imperial College London
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Qualification Name: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Appears in Collections:Centre for Environmental Policy PhD theses

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