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Life cycle environmental assessment of industrial hazardous waste incineration and landfilling in China

Hong, Jinglan, Han, Xiaofei, Chen, Yilu, Wang, Meng, Ye, Liping, Qi, Congcong, Li, Xiangzhi
The international journal of life cycle assessment 2017 v.22 no.7 pp. 1054-1064
air pollutants, air pollution, arsenic, carcinogens, cement, chromium, developed countries, ecotoxicology, electric energy consumption, electricity generation, emissions, environmental assessment, environmental factors, environmental impact, food intake, freshwater, hazardous waste, heavy metals, human health, humans, inventories, irradiation, life cycle assessment, mercury, models, recycling, sodium hydroxide, toxicity, transportation, waste incineration, China
PURPOSE: The improper handling of industrial hazardous waste (IHW), which comprises large amounts of toxic chemicals, heavy metals, or irradiation substances, is a considerable threat to human health and the environment. This study aims to quantify the life cycle environmental impacts of IHW landfilling and incineration in China, to identify its key factors, to improve its potential effects, and to establish a hazardous waste disposal inventory. METHODS: Life cycle assessment was conducted using the ReCiPe model to estimate the environmental impact of IHW landfilling and incineration. The characterization factors for the human toxicity and freshwater ecotoxicity categories shown in the ReCiPe were updated based on the geographies, population, food intake, and environmental conditions in China. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The overall environmental burden was mainly attributed to the carcinogen category. The national carcinogen burden in 2014 at 37.8 CTUh was dominated by diesel consumption, cement and sodium hydroxide production, direct emission, transportation, and electricity generation stages caused by direct mercury and arsenic emissions, as well as indirect chromium emission. Although the atmospheric mercury emission directly caused by IHW incineration was comparative with the emission levels of developed countries, the annual direct mercury emission accounted for approximately 0.1% of the national mercury emission. CONCLUSIONS: The key factors contributing to the reduction of the national environmental burden include the increasing diesel and electricity consumption efficiency, the reduction of cement and sodium hydroxide use, the development of air pollutant controlling systems, the reduction of transport distance between IHW disposers to suppliers, and the improvement of IHW recycling and reuse technologies.