Quantifying waste prevention with LCA to motivate holistic resource

Conference Dates

June 5-10, 2016


With the Waste Framework Directive, waste prevention was promoted first priority for all EU member states in 2008 because it is superior to preparing for re-use, recycling and other waste management options in terms of resource efficiency. However, the actual implementation of waste prevention activities has so far been hesitant and the focus on end-of-pipe waste management instead of a holistic resource management prevails. Reasons include the limited measurability of waste prevention effects and the consequential lack of awareness, motivation and incentives. Our research aims to quantify waste prevention and its environmental impacts using Life Cycle Assessments and, thereby, to induce the efficient implementation of waste prevention concepts into municipalities’ strategies.

Within a two-year-project, we developed a framework to support municipalities in establishing holistic resource management. The framework comprises three phases to set up waste prevention concepts and includes a detailed guideline as well as a methodology for the evaluation of potentials and measures. Since the impacts of waste prevention can only be identified with a holistic approach, LCAs were used to calculate the potentials for quantitative as well as qualitative waste prevention. The analyzed measures were selected based on an empirical study covering 111 municipalities and include 5 waste streams and several areas of responsibility. To better motivate communities to take action and to implement waste prevention concepts, tangible impact categories and their midpoint-values were used. The impact categories for this study emerge directly from the European Waste Framework Directive and cover Waste Generation (Waste), Global Warming Potential (GWP), Water Scarcity (WSI), Mineral Resource Depletion (MRD) and Human Toxicity (H.-Toxicity).

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