Contribution to closing the loop on waste materials: valorization of bottom ash from waste-to-energy plants under a life cycle approach

  • M. MargalloEmail author
  • R. Aldaco
  • A. Bala
  • P. Fullana
  • A. Irabien


Incineration has undergone several technology improvements, reducing air emissions and increasing the efficiency of energy and material recovery; however, there is still a long way to go. To analyze the environmental impacts of waste incineration, this study assessed 15 waste fractions that compose municipal waste in Spain, which are grouped as non-inert materials (plastics, paper, cardboard and organic matter), unburned materials (glass and Al) and ferrous materials. Additionally, this paper evaluates the valorization of bottom ash (BA) to produce steel, aluminum and cement in these recycled/recoverable waste fractions. The results depend on the input waste composition and the heating value (HHV) and showed that ferrous and unburned materials had the worst environmental performance due to the null HHV. The valorization of BA in steel, Al and cement production significantly reduced the environmental impact and the consumption of resources. BA recycling for secondary steel and Al production would improve the environmental performance of the combustion of unburned materials and ferrous materials, whereas the use of BA in cement production diminished the consumption of NR for non-inert materials. This is of great interest for organic matter and PC, waste with a low energy production and high heavy metal and sulfur content.


Incineration Life cycle assessment Municipal solid waste Valorization Waste-to-energy (WtE) plant 



Aquatic acidification




Aquatic oxygen demand


Aquatic acidification


Bottom ash


Environmental burdens


Environmental burden sustainability


Environmental sustainability assessment




Fly ash


Grate incinerator


Greenhouse gases


Global warming


High-density polyethylene


Human health effects


High heating values


Life cycle assessment


Low heating value


Life cycle inventory


Life cycle impact assessment


Low density polyethylene


Ecotoxicity to aquatic life (metals)


Municipal solid waste


Municipal solid waste incineration


Ecotoxicity to aquatic life (others)


Non-methane volatile organic compounds




Natural resource sustainability




Paper and cardboard


Dioxins and furans


Polyethylene terephthalate


Photochemical ozone formation


Stratospheric ozone depletion


Total organic carbon


Total suspended particles


Threshold values





The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the project LIFE08 ENV/E/000135: FENIX—giving packaging a New Life.

Supplementary material

10163_2018_709_MOESM1_ESM.docx (248 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 248 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Margallo
    • 1
    Email author
  • R. Aldaco
    • 1
  • A. Bala
    • 2
  • P. Fullana
    • 2
  • A. Irabien
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Ingenierías Química y BiomolecularUniversidad de CantabriaSantanderSpain
  2. 2.Cátedra Unesco de Ciclo de Vida y Cambio Climático (ESCI-UPF), Escola Superior de Comerç InternacionalUniversitat Pompeu FabraBarcelonaSpain

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