Environmental-benefit analysis of two urban waste collection systems

Sci Total Environ. 2013 Oct 1;463-464:72-7. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.05.053. Epub 2013 Jun 20.


Sustainable transportation infrastructure and travel policies aim to optimise the use of transportation systems to achieve economic and related social and environmental goals. To this end, a novel methodology based on life cycle assessment (LCA) has been developed in this study, with the aim of quantifying, in terms of CO2 emissions equivalent, the impact associated with different alternatives of waste collection systems in different urban typologies. This new approach is focussed on saving energy and raw materials and reducing the environmental impact associated with the waste collection system in urban areas, as well as allowing the design and planning of the best available technologies and most environment-friendly management. The methodology considers a large variety of variables from the point of view of sustainable urban transport such as the location and size of the urban area, the amount of solid waste generated, the level of social awareness on waste separation procedures, the distance between houses and waste collection points and the distance from the latter to the possible recovery plants and/or landfills, taking into account the material and energy recovery ratio within an integrated waste management system. As a case study, two different waste collection systems have been evaluated with this methodology in the ecocity Valdespartera located in Zaragoza, Spain, consisting of approximately 10,000 homes: (i) a system based on traditional truck transportation and manual collection, and (ii) a stationary vacuum waste collection system. Results show that, when operating at loads close to 100%, the stationary collection system has the best environmental performance in comparison with the conventional system. In contrast, when operating at load factors around 13% the environmental benefits in terms of net CO2-eq. emissions for the stationary collection system are around 60% lower in comparison with the conventional one.

Keywords: Eco-efficiency; Energy savings; Industrial ecology; LCA; Municipal solid waste; Urban areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Cities
  • Environment*
  • Refuse Disposal
  • Spain
  • Transportation
  • Waste Disposal Facilities
  • Waste Management / methods*
  • Waste Management / standards


  • Carbon Dioxide