A systematic review on life cycle assessment of different waste to energy valorization technologies

Behnam Dastjerdi*, Vladimir Strezov, Mohammad Ali Rajaeifar, Ravinder Kumar, Masud Behnia

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Selection and implementation of effective and efficient waste management strategies have been widely considered as a matter of concern for sustainable development. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is the most common approach to evaluate the environmental impacts of different waste management strategies. This paper presents a systematic review of scientific LCA studies assessing environmental impacts of waste to energy (WtE) technologies. A systematic literature review protocol was followed to characterise and critically evaluate the published literature on the environmental dimensions of LCA studies for WtE from 1981 to 2019 in terms of software, databases, life cycle impact assessment methods, environmental impacts and source of uncertainty. The major research observations were summarised accordingly, and important insights were obtained in the current review. The results showed that the treatment of specific waste material with various WtE technologies can affect different environmental impact categories in a contradictory way. For instance, anaerobic digestion can minimise environmental consequences dealing with organic wastes in the majority of impact categories but not in ecotoxicity and human toxicity impact categories. There was a general agreement in the results about the preference of incineration over landfilling for MSW treatment. Moreover, the results of sensitivity analysis showed that assumptions in substitution of WtE products are the primary source of uncertainty. Overall, the results of LCA studies confirm the application of WtE technologies in an integrated waste management strategy. In addition, the discussion in the article provides insights on technologies suitable for each waste material.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125747
Pages (from-to)1-31
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2021


  • Waste to energy
  • Sustainable waste management
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Waste valorization


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