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Combustible waste collected at Danish recycling centres: Characterisation, recycling potentials and contribution to environmental savings

Faraca, Giorgia, Edjabou, Vincent M., Boldrin, Alessio, Astrup, Thomas
Waste management 2019 v.89 pp. 354-365
climate change, ecosystem services, energy recovery, fabrics, households, paper, physical properties, plastics, recycling, wastes, Denmark
Europe is currently adapting its waste management strategies towards the increased recycling of waste materials, motivated by ambitious recycling targets. This requires correctly sorting and recovering of all relevant waste flows. In Denmark, a considerable share of residential household waste is collected at recycling centres, 16% of which is sent to energy recovery in the form of “small combustible waste”. Although essential in order to enhance the management of household waste, very little information exists on its composition. In this study, 25 tonnes of small combustible waste were sampled from eight Danish recycling centres and classified according to material fraction, application and physical properties. On this basis, the potential contribution to the overall recycling rate was evaluated together with estimation of the potential environmental savings associated with recycling of these fractions. Less than half of the sampled waste comprised combustible materials, whereas recyclable fractions accounted for 47–64%, mainly including textiles, plastics and paper waste. Assuming this composition applicable to the national level, recycling these waste materials collected as small combustibles increased national recycling rates for households by 12%, calculated as waste received at recycling processes. Moreover, the potential climate change savings associated with recycling of Danish household waste increased by 30% compared to the current level. Plastics, textiles and paper were the main contributors to this increase, suggesting that improved sorting practices for these materials should be prioritised. The study demonstrates that detailed compositional data for waste materials has paramount importance when estimating recycling potentials and quantifying the associated environmental benefits.