Welcome to the Exergoecology Portal
You are here: Home / Resources / Exergoecology bibliography / Quantitative Assessment of Solid Waste Treatment Systems in the Industrial Ecology Perspective by Exergy Analysis

Jo Dewulf and H. v Langenhove (2002)

Quantitative Assessment of Solid Waste Treatment Systems in the Industrial Ecology Perspective by Exergy Analysis

Environ. Sci. Technol., 36:1130-1135.

Solid waste treatment options (recycling, incineration, and landfilling; the two latter processes both with cogeneration of heat and electricity) have been studied for cardboard, newspaper, polyethylene, poly(ethylene terephthalate), polypropylene, polystyrene, and poly(vinyl chloride) waste. The conversion processes have been analyzed in terms of the second law of thermodynamics. The analysis allows calculating the exergy (useful energy) embodied in conversion products that can be obtained from the required inputs for the treatment processes. Taking into account the waste materials and the resources to convert them, it proved that recycling is the most efficient option for polyethylene with an efficiency of 62.5% versus 43.6% for incineration and 0.9% for landfilling. Next, waste treatment has been put into the broader perspective of industrial ecology. Exergetic efficiencies of industrial metabolic options have been calculated. Here resources for manufacturing and converting solid products have been considered. Furthermore, selection of one type of conversion excludes the generation of other potential conversion products. Therefore, it has to be taken into account that these latter products still have to be produced starting from virgin resources. Recycling proved to be the most efficient strategy: the ratio è between exergy embodied in all delivered products on one hand, and all exergy withdrawn from the ecosphere or from waste materials on the other hand, is the highest. For polyethylene, è proved to be 0.568, whereas è is 0.503 and 0.329 for incineration and landfilling, respectively. On the other hand, if R the ratio between exergy of delivered products on one hand and exergy of virgin materials on the other hand is calculated, the differences between the industrial metabolic options are larger. Recycling polyethylene showed a ratio R of 0.936, whereas ratios of 0.772 and 0.531 were found for incineration and landfilling, respectively. It has been shown that the exergy concept allows a quantitative comparison of different industrial metabolic options, contributing to a better assessment of sustainability of technology with respect to resource management.

Document Actions


Please subscribe for the new newsletter.

Logo instituto Circe
Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Ulysea S.L. - Informática

The Material Limits of Energy Transition: Thanatia

Antonio Valero Capilla, Alicia Valero Delgado and Guiomar Calvo

This book provides a holistic view of raw mineral depletion in the context of renewable energy transistion.

The material limits Thanatia


Thanatia. Los límites minerales del planeta

mites minerales del planeta

 Antonio Valero Capilla and Alicia Valero Delgado interviewed by Adrián Almazán

We need a material transition, not only energetic, that restores nature and effectively reuses materials. Gaia must be cared for by extending life on Earth and slowing its degradation towards Thanatia.

Thanatia los limites


Thermodynamics for Sustainable Management of Natural Resources

Cover Thermodynamics

Wojciech Stanek (Editor)

This book examines ways of assessing the rational management of nonrenewable resources. Integrating numerous methods, it systematically exposes the strengths of exergy analysis in resources management.

Thanatia: The Destiny of the Earth's Mineral Resources

Cover Thanatia

A Thermodynamic Cradle-to-Cradle Assessment by (author): Antonio Valero Capilla and Alicia Valero Delgado

Is Gaia becoming Thanatia, a resource exhausted planet? For how long can our high-tech society be sustained in the light of declining mineral ore grades, heavy dependence on un-recycled critical metals and accelerated material dispersion? These are all root causes of future disruptions that need to be addressed today.