Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Manbir Sodhi

Abstract

The emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and their impact on global warming have been researched broadly for several decades. With an increasing attention in both politics and science, the issue of GHG emissions was found to have an extensive impact on legislation, society and the economy. The transportation sector, the industrial sector, the electricity sector and the waste management sector are considered to be the major contributors to the GHG emissions. Investigating the waste management sector and its GHG releases, it is of public and private interest, which waste management system – Material Recycling Facility (MRF), Municipality Landfill or Waste-to-Energy Plant (WTE plant) - contributes the most to these emissions. Therefore, the objective of this study is to evaluate the three WMS concerning their environmental impacts and to compare their performance in terms of their GHG releases, including the three major green house gases: carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. However, the main focus is on the MRF, for which data was provided by the MRF of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Company (RIRRC) for a real world case study. For the comparison, the processed amount of waste and the share of composition for each WMS is assumed to be identical. The reference for this amount is given by the waste collected at the curbside of the municipality of Rhode Island within one year. Hence, the compared carbon footprints also include the total amount of GHGs emitted per year from each WMS. For modeling the WMS and the subsequent assessment of the GHGs, the “GaBi 6 Sustainability Software” is utilized. iii The results show the total performance of each WMS considering its environmental impacts, emphasizing the MRF of the RIRRC by far as the WMS with the lowest emissions per year. The next WMS in the order is the WTE plant, which however has nearly an eight times higher emission of GHGs as the MRF. The landfill takes the last place in this comparison with a ten times higher amount of emissions per year as the MRF.

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