Environmental assessment of incinerator residue utilisation

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Toller, Susanna (2008)
  • Publisher: Stockholm : KTH
  • Subject: MSWI bottom ash | wood ash | recycling | LCA | environmental assessment | geochemical speciation modelling | dissolved organic matter | copper (Cu) | Environmental engineering | Miljöteknik

 In Sweden, utilisation of incinerator residues outside disposal areas is restricted by environmental concerns, as such residues commonly contain greater amounts of potentially toxic trace elements than the natural materials they replace. On the other hand, utilisation can also provide environmental benefits by decreasing the need for landfill and reducing raw material extraction. This thesis provides increased knowledge and proposes better approaches for environmental assessment of incinerator residue utilisation, particularly bottom ash from municipal solid waste incineration (MSWI).A life cycle assessment (LCA) based approach was outlined for environmental assessment of incinerator residue utilisation, in which leaching of trace elements as well as other emissions to air and water and the use of resources were regarded as constituting the potential environmental impact from the system studied. Case studies were performed for i) road construction with or without MSWI bottom ash, ii) three management scenarios for MSWI bottom ash and iii) three management scenarios for wood ash. Different types of potential environmental impact predominated in the activities of the system and the scenarios differed in use of resources and energy. Utilising MSWI bottom ash in road construction and recycling of wood ash on forest land saved more natural resources and energy than when these materials were managed according to the other scenarios investigated, including dumping in landfill. There is a potential for trace element leaching regardless of how the ash is managed.Trace element leaching, particularly of copper (Cu), was identified as being relatively important for environmental assessment of MSWI bottom ash utilisation. CuO is suggested as the most important type of Cu-containing mineral in weathered MSWI bottom ash, whereas in the leachate Cu is mainly present in complexes with dissolved organic matter (DOM). The hydrophilic components of the DOM were more important for Cu binding than previously understood. Differences were also observed between MSWI bottom ash DOM and the natural DOM for which the geochemical speciation models SHM and NICA-Donnan are calibrated. Revised parameter values for speciation modelling are therefore suggested. Additions of salt or natural DOM in the influent did not change the leachate concentration of Cu. Thus, although Cl and natural DOM might be present in the influent in the field due to road salting or infiltration of soil water, this is of minor importance for the potential environmental impact from MSWI bottom ash.This thesis allows estimates of long-term leaching and toxicity to be improved and demonstrates the need for broadening the system boundaries in order to highlight the trade-offs between different types of impact. For decisions on whether incinerator residues should be utilised or landfilled, the use of a life cycle perspective in combination with more detailed assessments is recommended. QC 20100914
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