, Volume 7, Issue 5, pp 295-300

Geographical and technological differences in life cycle inventories shown by the use of process models for waste incinerators part I. technological and geographical differences

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Goal and Background

Geographical and technological differences in Life Cycle Inventory data are an important source for uncertainty in the result of Life Cycle Assessments. Knowledge on their impact on the result of an LCA is scarce, and also knowledge on how to manage them in an LCA case study.


Goal of this paper is to explore these differences for municipal solid waste incinerator plants, and to develop recommendations for managing technological and geographical differences.


The paper provides a definition of technological and geographical differences, and analyses their possible impacts. In a case study, the differences are caused intentionally in ‘games’, by virtually transplanting incineration plants to a different location and by changing parameters such as the composition of the waste input incinerated. The games are performed by using a modular model for municipal solid waste incinerator plants. In each case, an LCA including an Impact Assessment is calculated to trace the impact of these changes, and the results are compared.


The conclusions of the paper are two-fold: (1) reduce the differences in inventory data where their impact on the result is high; where it is possible reducing them to a great extent, and the effort for performing the change acceptable; in the case of incineration plants: Adapt the flue gas treatment, especially a possible DeNOx step, to the real conditions; (2) make use of modular process models that allow adapting plant parameters to better meet real conditions, but be aware of possible modelling errors. The paper invites the scientific community to validate the model used for a waste incinerator plant, and suggest putting up similar models for other processes, preferably those of similar relevance for Life Cycle Inventories.