Report: comparison of environmental impacts from solid waste treatment and disposal facilities


Corresponding author: C. A. Tsiliyannis, Alpha Environmental Ltd, 48 Favierou Street, Athens 10438, Greece.


Releases of pollutants to the environment were determined on the basis of per tonne municipal solid waste (MSW) received for three widely implemented technologies: (1) landfilling with energy recovery; (2) waste to energy; and (3) mechanical separation to refuse-derived fuel (RDF)/compost with RDF incineration for energy recovery. All three technologies were considered with a nominal capacity of 1000 tonnes MSW per day. The analysis was based on the solid waste composition of Athens, Greece, and the facilities were assumed to meet EU Directives and to include the proper disposal of residues. It was found that landfilling with energy recovery produces slightly higher air pollution and greenhouse gas releases, mainly owing to the emission of uncollected biogas. Released leachate rates are at a ratio of 5:1:2 for landfilling with energy recovery, waste to energy and mechanical separation to RDF/compost with RDF incineration for energy recovery, respectively. Landfilling with energy recovery does not produce air emissions of toxic metals, but releases dioxins and furans at the same levels as the other two methods; polychlorinated biphenyls are also released by landfilling with energy recovery, mainly due to electricity production from biogas. Mechanical separation to RDF/compost with RDF incineration for energy recovery produces lower releases per tonne MSW for most pollutants, but the pollutants are more widely dispersed in soils, groundwater and the atmosphere. The methodology used is not significantly affected by uncertainties and may be used for the further evaluation of environmental impacts and the assessment of integrated MSW management schemes.