Accounting for transportation impacts in the environmental assessment of waste management plans

  • Emanuele Brambilla Pisoni
  • Roberto Raccanelli
  • Giovanni Dotelli
  • Donatella Botta
  • Paco Melià


Background, aim, and scope

Many recent studies on waste management have described in detail the potential impacts of recycling and final treatment of municipal waste. In public debates, the attention has also been focused on the choice of final disposal technologies (e.g. landfilling vs. incineration). However, a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of waste collection and transport was still lacking. In the present study, we use LCA to evaluate the potential impact of the provincial waste management plan of Varese (northern Italy). Particular attention is devoted to the estimation of environmental impacts generated during waste transport.

Materials and methods

A detailed Life Cycle Inventory was built for the transportation phase, based on primary data collected by interviewing the agencies involved in waste collection. To model the recycling and final disposal phase we relied on the BUWAL 250 database. Impacts were evaluated with the Eco-Indicator 99 method in its egalitarian formulation.


The results of our analysis reveal that the major potential impacts of the plan are associated with waste collection and transport. These impacts are partially compensated by reduced resource consumption through recycling and energy recovery through incineration.


The outputs of the LCIA were compared with those obtained by using other ecoindicators (Eco-Indicator 99 hierarchist and individualist, CML2, EPS2000). Although not comparable on a quantitative basis, they are qualitatively consistent.


Neglecting the effects of collection and transport might result in a severe underestimation of the environmental impacts of a waste management system, especially as refers to depletion of fossil fuels, emission of respiratory inorganics and climate change. To reduce the environmental impact of waste management systems, an accurate optimisation of waste transport is required.

Recommendations and perspectives

Effective waste management planning requires the explicit inclusion of waste collection and transport when comparing alternative management policies.


Case studies Life cycle assessment (LCA) PPP impact assessment Waste collection and transport Waste management planning 



CML2 baseline 2000


Eco-Indicator 99


Eco-Indicator 99 egalitarian


life cycle assessment


life cycle impact assessment


municipal solid waste


policies, plans and programmes


provincial waste management plan


recycling or final disposal


waste collection and transport


waste management system



The authors are grateful to Göran Finnveden and two anonymous reviewers for valuable suggestions leading to an improved final draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emanuele Brambilla Pisoni
    • 1
  • Roberto Raccanelli
    • 1
  • Giovanni Dotelli
    • 1
  • Donatella Botta
    • 1
  • Paco Melià
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Ingegneria Chimica ‘Giulio Natta’Politecnico di MilanoMilanoItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Elettronica e InformazionePolitecnico di MilanoMilanoItaly

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