Use of Statistical Entropy and Life Cycle Analysis to Evaluate Global Warming Potential of Waste Management Systems

By Scott Kaufman, Eilhann Kwon, Nikhil Krishnan, Professor Marco Castaldi, and Professor Nickolas J. Themelis
Proceedings of NAWTEC16
16th Annual North American Waste-to-Energy Conference
May 19-21, 2008, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

The statistical entropy (SE) function has been applied to waste treatment systems to account for dilution or concentration effects on metals. We later extended it to account for carbon flows, especially in waste management systems involving thermal treatment. Now, a simple lifecycle “net energy” metric – encompassing the “lost energy” that would have been gained when high-calorific materials are landfilled rather than combusted with energy recovery – is introduced to account for additional influxes of carbon when using landfilling as the primary disposal method. When combining net energy calculations and long terms effects of landfilling, waste to energy (WTE) becomes a more attractive option for dealing with non-recycled municipal solid waste (MSW). A greenhouse gasforcing factor is also introduced to account for the entropy generating effects of methane. When incorporating forcing and lost energy, WTE performs notably better than landfills with respect to entropy generation and carbon.

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