Waste-to-Materials: The Longterm Option

  • Philip Nuss
  • Stefan Bringezu
  • Kevin H Gardner
Part of the Green Energy and Technology book series (GREEN)


Managing solid waste is one of the biggest challenges in urban areas around the world. Technologically advanced economies generate vast amounts of organic waste materials, many of which are disposed to landfills. In the future, efficient use of carbon containing waste and all other waste materials has to be increased to reduce the need for virgin raw materials acquisition, including biomass, and reduce carbon being emitted to the atmosphere therefore mitigating climate change. At end-of-life, carbon-containing waste should not only be treated for energy recovery (e.g. via incineration) but technologies should be applied to recycle the carbon for use as material feedstocks. Thermochemical and biochemical conversion technologies offer the option to utilize organic waste for the production of chemical feedstock and subsequent polymers. The routes towards synthetic materials allow a more closed cycle of materials and can help to reduce dependence on either fossil or biobased raw materials. This chapter summarizes carbon-recycling routes available and investigates how in the long-term they could be applied to enhance waste management in both industrial countries as well as developing and emerging economies. We conclude with a case study looking at the system-wide global warming potential (GWP) and cumulative energy demand (CED) of producing high-density polyethylene (HDPE) from organic waste feedstock via gasification followed by Fischer–Tropsch synthesis (FTS). Results of the analysis indicate that the use of organic waste feedstock is beneficial if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with landfill diversion are considered.


Municipal Solid Waste Organic Waste Global Warming Potential Cumulative Energy Demand Refuse Derive Fuel 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. 1.
    Aiello-Mazzarri C, Coward-Kelly G, Agbogbo F, Holtzapple M (2005) Conversion of municipal solid waste into carboxylic acids by anaerobic countercurrent fermentation. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 127(2):79–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ayres RU, Ayres L (2002) A handbook of industrial ecology. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bechtel (1998) Baseline design/economics for advanced Fischer-Tropsch technology. U.S. Department of Energy Technology Center, USGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Belgiorno V, De Feo G, Della Rocca C, Napoli RMA (2003) Energy from gasification of solid wastes. Waste Manage 23(1):1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bez J, Goldhan G, Buttker B (2001) Methanol aus Abfall–Ökobilanz bescheinigt gute Noten. Müll und Abfall 33(3):158–162Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bringezu S (2009) Chapter 4: Visions of a sustainable resource use. In: Bringezu S, Bleischwitz R (eds) Sustainable resource management: global trends, visions and policies. Greenleaf Publishing, Sheffield, pp 155–215Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Bringezu S, Schütz H, Moll S (2003) Rationale for and interpretation of economy-wide materials flow analysis and derived indicators. J Ind Ecol 7:43–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Bringezu S, Schütz H, Steger S, Baudisch J (2004) International comparison of resource use and its relation to economic growth: The development of total material requirement, direct material inputs and hidden flows and the structure of TMR. Ecol Econ 51(1–2):97–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Broder J, Eley M, Barrier J (1993) Municipal solid waste and waste cellulosics conversion to fuels and chemicals-vol 2: Front-end classification systems. Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle ShoalsGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Brunner PH, Morf L, Rechberger H (2004) VI.3 Thermal waste treatment–a necessary element for sustainable waste management (Internet). In: Irena Twardowska HEA (ed) Solid waste: assessment, monitoring and remediation. Elsevier, (cited 2010 Dec 3), pp 783–806Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Champagne P (2007) Feasibility of producing bio-ethanol from waste residues: a Canadian perspective: feasibility of producing bio-ethanol from waste residues in Canada. Resour Conserv Recycl 50(3):211–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Chester M, Martin E (2009) Cellulosic ethanol from municipal solid waste: a case study of the economic, energy, and greenhouse gas impacts in California. Environ Sci Technol 43(14):5183–5189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Choi G, Kramer S, Tam S, Fox J (1997) Design/Economics of a once-through natural gas Fischer-Tropsch plant with power co-production (Internet).1997 (cited 2010 Oct 25); Available from:
  14. 14.
    Ciferno J, Marano J (2002) Benchmarking biomass gasification technologies for fuels, chemical and hydrogen production (Internet). U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Technology Laboratory; (cited 2010 Nov 4). Available from:
  15. 15.
    CPM (2010) CPM LCA database (Internet). Center for Environmental Assessment of Product and Material Systems (CPM), Chalmers University of Technology, Goteborg, Sweden (cited 2010 Nov 22). Available from:
  16. 16.
    Dancuar L, Mayer J, Tallman M, Adams J (2003) Performance of the SASOL SPD naphtha as steam cracking feedstock. Prepr Am Chem Soc (a division of Petroleum Chemistry) 48:132–138Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    DESTATIS (2009) Environment Waste Balance 2007. German Federal Statistical Office, WiesbadenGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ecoinvent (2010) Ecoinvent life cycle inventory database v2.2 (Internet). Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories; (cited 2010 Nov 7). Available from:
  19. 19.
    Ehrenfeld JR (2000) Industrial ecology: paradigm shift or normal science? Am Behav Scientist 44(2):229–244Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    EPA (2009) Municipal solid waste generation, recycling and disposal in the United States: facts and figures for 2008 (Internet). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; 2009 (cited 2009 Dec 20). Available from:
  21. 21.
    EPA (2010) Solid waste management and greenhouse gases: documentation for greenhouse gas emission and energy factors used in the waste reduction model (WARM) (Internet). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; 2010 (cited 2010 Dec 11). Available from:
  22. 22.
    Erkman S (1997) Industrial ecology: an historical view. J Cleaner Prod 5(1–2):1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Eurostat (2009) Environmental data centre on waste (Internet). 2009 (cited 2009 Dec 21); Available from:
  24. 24.
    Franklin Associates (2007) Cradle-to-gate life cycle inventory of nine plastic resins and four polyurethane precursors (Internet). The Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council, Prairie Village; 2007 (cited 2010 Nov 26). Available from:
  25. 25.
    Green M, Shelef G (1989) Ethanol fermentation of acid hydrolysate of municipal solid waste. Chem Eng J 40(3):B25–B28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Hayes DJ (2009) An examination of biorefining processes, catalysts and challenges. Catal Today 145(1–2):138–151CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Henry RK, Yongsheng Z, Jun D (2006) Municipal solid waste management challenges in developing countries-Kenyan case study. Waste Manage 26(1):92–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Higham I, Palacios I, Barker N (2001) Review of BAT for new waste incineration issues - part 1 waste pyrolysis & gasification activities. Enviroment Agency, BristolGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Jones A, O’Hare M, Farrel A (2007) Biofuel boundaries: estimating the medium-term supply potential of domestic biofuels (Internet). UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center, Berkely, Working Paper; 2007 (cited 2009 Dec 23). Available from:
  30. 30.
    Jones S, Zhu Y, Valkenburg C (2009) Municipal solid waste (MSW) to liquid fuels synthesis, vol 2: A techno-economic evaluation of the production of mixed alcohols (Internet). Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland; 2009 (cited 2009 Oct 30). Available from:
  31. 31.
    Jungbluth N, Chudacoff M, Dauriat A, Dinkel F, Doka G, Faist Emmenegger M et al. (2007) Life cycle inventories of bioenergy (Internet). Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories, Dübendorf, CHGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Jungbluth N, Frischknecht R, Emmenegger MF, Tuchschmid M (2007) RENEW: Renewable fuels for advanced powertrains - life cycle assessment of BTL-fuel production: inventory analysis (Internet). ESU-Services Ltd.; 2007 (cited 2010 Jan 11). Available from:
  33. 33.
    Juniper Consultancy Services (2001) Pyrolysis and gasification of waste: a worldwide business and technology review, vols 1 and 2 (Internet). Juniper Consultancy Services Ltd, England. Available from:
  34. 34.
    Kalogo Y, Habibi S, MacLean HL, Joshi SV (2007) Environmental implications of municipal solid waste-derived ethanol. Environ Sci Technol 41(1):35–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Kamm B, Gruber PR, Kamm M (2006) Biorefineries - industrial processes and products: status quo and future directions, vol 2. Wiley-VCH, LondonGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Khoo HH (2009) Life cycle impact assessment of various waste conversion technologies. Waste Manage 29(6):1892–1900 JunCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Klein A (2002) Gasification: an alternative process for energy recovery and disposal of municipal solid waste (Internet). 2002 May (cited 2010 Aug 8); Available from:
  38. 38.
    Kreith F, Tchobanoglous G (2002) Handbook of solid waste management. McGraw Hill Professional, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Lackner KS, Brennan S (2009) Envisioning carbon capture and storage: expanded possibilities due to air capture, leakage insurance, and C-14 monitoring. Clim Change 96(3):357–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Lettenmeier M, Rohn H, Liedtke C, Schmidt-Bleek F (2009) Resource productivity in 7 steps : how to develop eco-innovative products and services and improve their material footprint (Internet). Wuppertal, Germany: Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie GmbH; 2009
  41. 41.
    Li A, Khraisheh M (2008) Municipal solid waste used as bioethanol sources and its related environmental impacts. Int J Soil, Sediment Water 1(1):5–10Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Li A, Khraisheh M (2008) Rubbish or resources: an investigation of converting municipal solid waste (MSW) to bio-ethanol production. WIT Trans Ecol Environ 109:115–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Li A, Khraisheh M (2009) Bioenergy II: bio-ethanol from municipal solid waste (MSW): The UK potential and implication for sustainable energy and waste management. Int J Chem Reactor Eng (Internet). 2009; 7. Available from:
  44. 44.
    Li A, Antizar-Ladislao B, Khraisheh M (2007) Bioconversion of municipal solid waste to glucose for bio-ethanol production. Bioprocess Biosyst Eng 30(3):189–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Malkow T (2004) Novel and innovative pyrolysis and gasification technologies for energy efficient and environmentally sound MSW disposal. Waste Manage 24(1):53–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Marano JJ, Ciferno JP (2001) Life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions inventory for Fischer-Tropsch fuels (Internet). U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory; 2001 (cited 2009 May 21). Available from:
  47. 47.
    McCaskey T, Zhou S, Britt S, Strickland R (1994) Bioconversion of municipal solid waste to lactic acid by Lactobacillus species. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 45–46(1):555–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Mtui G, Nakamura Y (2005) Bioconversion of lignocellulosic waste from selected dumping sites in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Biodegradation 16(6):493–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Niessen W, Marks C, Sommerlad R, Niessen WR, Marks CH, Sommerlad RE (1996) Evaluation of gasification and novel thermal processes for the treatment of municipal solid waste. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), GoldenGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    NREL (2008) U.S. life cycle inventory database (U.S. LCI), v1.6.0 (Internet). National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); 2008 (cited 2010 Jan 26). Available from:
  51. 51.
    Paisley M, Creamer K, Tweksbury T, Taylor D (1989) Gasification of refuse derived fuel in the Battelle high throughput gasification system (Internet). 1989 (cited 2010 Oct 25). Available from:
  52. 52.
    Rapport J, Zhang R, Jenkins B, Williams R (2008) Current anaerobic digestion technologies used for treatment of muncipal organic solid waste (Internet). California Integrated Waste Management Board, California; 2008 (cited 2010 Jan 2). Available from:
  53. 53.
    Ren T (2009) Petrochemicals from oil, natural gas, coal and biomass: energy use, economics and innovation (Internet). 2009 (cited 2009 Aug 22); Available from:
  54. 54.
    Ren T, Patel MK, Blok K (2008) Steam cracking and methane to olefins: energy use, CO2 emissions and production costs. Energy 33(5):817–833 MayGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    RENEW (2006) RENEW–Renewable fuels for advanced powertrains: WP5.4 technical assessment, Europäisches Zentrum für erneuerbare Energie Güssing GmbH [cited 2010 Nov 5]. Available from:
  56. 56.
    Sakai K, Taniguchi M, Miura S, Ohara H, Matsumoto T, Shirai Y (2003) Making plastics from garbage. J Ind Ecol 7(3–4):63–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. 57.
    Shi AZ, Koh LP, Tan HT (2009) The biofuel potential of municipal solid waste. GCB Bioenergy 1(5):317–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. 58.
    Shi J, Ebrik M, Yang B, Wyman CE (2009) The potential of cellulosic ethanol production from municipal solid waste: a technical and economic evaluation. University of California Energy Institute, BerkelyGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Skibar W, Grogan G, McDonald J, Pitts M (2009) UK expertise for exploitation of biomass-based platform chemicals—a white paper by the FROPTOP Group (Internet). FROPTOP (From Renewable Platform Chemicals to Value Added Products); 2009 (cited 2009 Jun 9). Available from:
  60. 60.
    Spath P, Dayton D (2003) Preliminary screening-technical and economic assessment of synthesis gas to fuels and chemicals with emphasis on the potential for biomass-derived syngas (Internet). U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Technology Laboratory; 2003. Available from:
  61. 61.
    Stichnothe H, Azapagic A (2009) Bioethanol from waste: life cycle estimation of the greenhouse gas saving potential. Resour Conserv Recycling 53(11):624–630CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Tchobanoglous G, Theisen H, Vigil S (1993) Integrated solid waste management: engineering principles and management issues. McGraw-Hill, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Twardowska I (2004) I.1 Solid waste: what is it? In: Solid waste: assessment, monitoring and remediation. Elsevier, pp 3–32Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    UBA (2010) ProBas-Lebenszyklusdatenbank (Internet). Dessau (Germany); Freiburg (Germany): Umweltbundesamt (German Federal Environmental Agency) and Öko-Institut; 2010 (cited 2010 Nov 22). Available from:
  65. 65.
    UN-HABITAT (2008) State of the world’s cities 2008/2009: harmonious cities (Internet). UN-HABITAT; 2008 (cited 2010 Dec 5). Available from:
  66. 66.
    UN-HABITAT (2010) Solid waste management in the world’s cities: water and sanitation in the world’s cities 2010. Earthscan Publications Ltd, LondonGoogle Scholar
  67. 67.
    Valkenburg C, Gerber M, Walton C, Jones S, Thompson B, Stevens D (2008) Municipal solid waste (MSW) to liquid fuels synthesis, vol 1: Availability of feedstock and technology (Internet). Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland; 2008 (cited 2009 Oct 30). Available from:
  68. 68.
    Van Bibber L, Shuster E, Haslbeck J, Rutkowski M, Olson S, Kramer S (2007) Technical and economic assessment of small-scale fischer-tropsch liquids facilities [Internet]. U.S. Department of Energy/National Energy Technology Laboratory; 2007 [cited 2010 Oct 25]. Available from:
  69. 69.
    Williams RB (2007) Biofuels from Municipal solid wastes - background discussion paper (Internet). University of California, Davis and California Biomass Collaborative. Available from:
  70. 70.
    Zheng Y, Pan Z, Zhang R, Labavitch J, Wang D, Teter S et al (2007) Evaluation of different biomass materials as feedstock for fermentable sugar production. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 137–140(1):423–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Nuss
    • 1
  • Stefan Bringezu
    • 2
  • Kevin H Gardner
    • 1
  1. 1.Environmental Research GroupUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUS
  2. 2.Research Group 3: Material Flows and Resource ManagementWuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and EnergyWuppertalGermany

Personalised recommendations