M.S. Thesis: Life Cycle Assessment and Comparison of the Environmental Impacts of Thermal Treatment and Landfilling in Puerto Rico

By Giselle Balaguer Datiz

Advisor: Prof. Nikhil Krishan

Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science
Columbia University

May 2008

The management of municipal solid waste (MSW) can be challenging in island settings. The island of Puerto Rico, for example, has faced increasing MSW management challenges in recent years due to the closing of several older landfills because of lack of compliance with federal landfill requirements. As in most island settings, Puerto Rico suffers from limited space for construction of new landfills. Furthermore, Puerto Rico residents generate more waste per capita than the people living on the continental US. Thermal treatment, or waste to energy (WTE) technologies are therefore a promising option for MSW management.

In this paper we quantify and compare the environmental burdens of thermal treatment with modern landfilling for the non-recyclable fraction of MSW in Puerto Rico. The scope of our analysis includes a broad range of activities associated with the management of MSW. We include transportation of MSW, impacts during construction of the facilities, impacts of managing and processing the waste and the energy and material offsets implications from the process. We manage uncertainty in data and models by constructing different scenarios for both alternatives based on realistic ranges of emission factors.

Download Thesis (pdf)

Share this post