Water and Sewage
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Project Summary Project Description Application of Tools Opinion of Tools Decision making process Contact Details

Project summary

Name of the case study
Assessment of organic waste treatment in Denmark.

Where is it located?

What type of activity is it?
The case concerns an assessment of waste sector policy on national level for the treatment of organic waste.

Short description of the case study
The case concerns applying Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) in combination with a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based tool called ORWARE on organic household waste treatment to find the most sustainable solution for waste treatement. The aim of the analysis was to find the most economic and environmentally friendly way of managing organic household waste from the options of:
1. recycle waste by anaerobic digestion (and use the energy produced)
2. Recycle waste by central composting
3. Waste incineration and energy recovery.

The analysis was made on a national level, based on experiences (costs) of different waste treatment methods from a number of municipalities. This is a break with the commonly accepted waste strategy, based on a priority of :
1. Reduce waste
2. Reuse waste
3. Recycle or incinerate waste
4. Dispose waste at landfill.

The existing prioritisation has been criticised for being unscientific, as it does not systematically take all environmental and economic consequences into account. The analysis also breaks with traditional ways of choosing between different waste strategies, which typically would consist of a comparative analysis of operational cost, supplied with analysis of environmental consequences (from interview with the Danish Environmental Protection Agency representative.

The Cost Benefit Analysis shows that when all phases of waste treatment are included it is more expensive for society to recycle organic household waste by anaerobic digestion or central composting than by incineration. Incineration is the cheapest solution for society, while central composting is the most expensive.

The environmental Life Cycle Analysis has shown that there are only small environmental benefits connected with anaerobic digestion of organic household waste compared with the incineration of the waste. The conclusions will form the guidelines for the Danish EPA recommendations on municipalities waste policy, and therefore might have a large influence on the waste policy in general.

What tools were used to assess sustainability?

ORWARE (LCA-analysis for organic waste)

Socio-economic Assessment of Environmental Products (economic analysis)

More information

Click here for a full description (pdf)