Assessment methods for solid waste management


Assessment methods are common tools to support decisions regarding waste management. The objective of this review article is to provide guidance for the selection of appropriate evaluation methods. For this purpose, frequently used assessment methods are reviewed, categorised, and summarised. In total, 151 studies have been considered in view of their goals, methodologies, systems investigated, and results regarding economic, environmental, and social issues.

A goal shared by all studies is the support of stakeholders. Most studies are based on life cycle assessments, multi-criteria-decision-making, cost-benefit analysis, risk assessments, and benchmarking. Approximately 40% of the reviewed articles are life cycle assessment-based; and more than 50% apply scenario analysis to identify the best waste management options. Most studies focus on municipal solid waste and consider specific environmental loadings. Economic aspects are considered by approximately 50% of the studies, and only a small number evaluate social aspects. The choice of system elements and boundaries varies significantly among the studies; thus, assessment results are sometimes contradictory. 

Based on the results of this review, we recommend the following considerations when assessing waste management systems: (i) a mass balance approach based on a rigid input–output analysis of the entire system, (ii) a goal-oriented evaluation of the results of the mass balance, which takes into account the intended waste management objectives; and (iii) a transparent and reproducible presentation of the methodology, data, and results.

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Journal of Advances in Recycling & Waste Management