Title: Proving the climate benefit in the production of biofuels from municipal solid waste refuse in Europe
Citation: JOURNAL OF CLEANER PRODUCTION vol. 142, Part 4 p. 2887–2900
Publication Year: 2016
JRC N°: JRC104152
ISSN: 0959-6526
URI: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095965261631811X
DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.10.181
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: The non-recyclable fraction of municipal solid waste (MSW refuse) represents over half of the total MSW production in Europe, with an energetic potential of 1250 PJ/year, a similar quantity to the current potential for energy production from agricultural residues. Currently, there are no alternative uses for MSW refuse other than landfilling or incineration. Thus, it represents an important untapped resource for biofuel production in Europe. Standard attributional LCAs have not been able to capture some of the bioenergy interactions with the climate system and neither to properly assess the climate change mitigation potential of bioenergy technologies. This study aims to fill this gap and properly assess the impact of the production of biofuels from MSW refuse on climate change by applying several methodological improvements in a time-dependent assessment, i.e., an explicit consideration of biogenic carbon flows using a dynamic LCA and an absolute formulation of the cumulative and instantaneous climate metrics. Two diverging examples of current MSW management systems are selected as references against which to assess the potential climate benefit of biofuel production: with or without dominant landfill disposal and with high or low GHG emissions from the power generation sector. The results show that in countries with current negligible landfilling, the production of biofuels would lead to a clear climate benefit. For landfill-dominant countries, the climate benefit would only be temporarily achieved in the medium term as the impact of landfills on climate decreases in the long term. However, considering a progressive banning of landfilling promoted by other policies for environmental protection and resource efficiency, the results would become positive for both countries with climate change mitigation guaranteed by using MSW refuse for biofuel production.
JRC Directorate:Energy, Transport and Climate

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