Swedish Life Cycle Center project within modelling waste incineration results in a published paper

Friday, 12 November, 2021

A recent project within Swedish Life Cycle Center, “Incentives for energy recovery in LCA for plastics” funded by The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, has resulted in a published paper in the scientific journal Waste Management.

The paper questions the common LCA practice of modelling waste incineration with substituted energy.

The paper that is written by Tomas Ekvall, Chalmers University of Technology, Marie Gottfridsson, IVL, Maja Nellström, IVL, Johan Nilsson, IVL, Maria Rydberg, Swedish Life Cycle Center, and Tomas Rydberg, IVL, can be found here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956053X21005250


About the project

Incentives for energy recovery in LCA for plastics” (funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency) is a continuation of the project modelling of recycling that aimed to analyzing and debating how recycling should be modeled in life cycle assessment (LCA) and similar environmental assessments and contributing to international harmonization processes such as EU Environmental Footprint. The aim was to increase the knowledge on whether results from LCA gives the wrong incentives, favoring energy recovery over material recycling for plastics. It also aims to increase knowledge about if this problem can be solved using Factor B in the product environmental footprint (PEF) methodology and/or by applying a wider system perspective on energy recovery that includes imports of waste and the subsequent waste management in the exporting countries.

Tomas Ekvall, TERRA/Chalmers University of Technology, main researcher in the project: “On the surface, this project is about the Circular Footprint Formula of the PEF methodology, applied to LDPE waste management. The revelation to me, however, is that an accurate modelling of the foreseeable consequences of sending material to recycling is not enough to guide the decision. It is a bit like modelling the consequences of clapping one hand.”

           Picture: Tomas Ekvall

In January 2021, results from the project were presented at a webinar. Tomas Ekvall (Chalmers University of Technology/TERRA), Maja Nellström and Marie Gottfridsson (IVL) presented the study, and a recording can be found on Swedish Life Cycle Centers YouTube Channel or watch the video below.


Text: Maria Rydberg, Swedish Life Cycle Center