A significant amount of waste generated in Europe and beyond by our production and consumption activities. Proper management of waste is essential in order to reduce detrimental environmental impacts. For the European Union, the general principles of good waste management are outlined in the Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) and related proposed amendment COM(2014)397 . This directive establishes a five-step hierarchy of waste management, starting with the preferred option of waste prevention, followed by preparing waste for re-use, recycling and other recovery methods, with disposal (such as landfill) being the last resort.
The European Commission (EC) encourages the use of Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) to complement the waste hierarchy in order to provide more environmentally sound and factual support to decision-making regarding waste management. This has led to the development of a set of guidelines which help apply LCT and quantitative tools such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to waste management systems and strategies, with the aim of identifying the waste management options that provide the best environmental performance. These guidelines are tailored to the needs of different target audiences and focus on specific waste streams:
- “Supporting Environmentally Sound Decision for Waste Management – A technical guide to Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for waste experts and LCA practitioners”;
- “Supporting Environmentally Sound Decision for Construction & Demolition (C&D) Waste Management – A practical guide to Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)”;
- “Supporting Environmentally Sound Decision for Bio-Waste Management – A practical guide to Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)”.
Figure 2 provides methodological guidance on how to use LCA to identify the option (among those allowed by the waste hierarchy) that delivers the best overall environmental outcome in the specific case of biodegradable waste.
Figure 2: Practical guidance to support sound environmental decisions for bio-waste management