The use of chemical composition data in waste management planning – A case study

Burnley, S. J. (2007). The use of chemical composition data in waste management planning – A case study. Waste Management, 27(3) pp. 327–336.



As the waste industry continues to move from a disposal-based system to one based on a combination of recovery options, the need for information on the composition of waste increases and this is reflected by the amount of information on the physical composition of municipal solid wastes that is now available. However, there is far less information on the chemical composition of municipal solid waste. The results from a number of chemical surveys from Europe are compared and show a reasonable degree of agreement, but several problems were identified with the data. Chemical and physical compositional data are combined in a case study example to investigate the flow of key potential pollutants in an integrated solid waste management system that uses materials recycling, composting, incineration and landfilling. This case study has shown that an integrated waste management strategy diverts lead and cadmium away from composting and recycling to incineration, which effectively isolates these elements from the environment through efficient capture of the pollutants followed by secure landfilling or recycling of the residues. However, further work is needed to determine the distribution of mercury in incineration residues and its fate when the residues are landfilled.

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