Application of the LCA methodology to evaluate the environmental performance of the municipal solid waste (MSW) management system implemented in Lombardy.
In the GERLA project, the LCA methodology was applied to analyse the environmental performance (global warming, acidification, human toxicity, photochemical ozone creation, Cumulative Energy Demand) of the current MSW management system implemented in Lombardy region as of 2009. The focus was on MSW, in particular six packaging materials separated at the source (glass, aluminium, steel, paper, plastic and wood), organic waste separated at the source and residual waste. Based on the interpretation of the results of the current situation, four alternative management scenarios were proposed for the year 2020 (a business-as-usual scenario, two scenarios that reach an overall level of separate collection of 70% and 75% respectively by increasing the kerbside mono-material collection system, a last scenario with an overall level of separate collection thanks to the increase of the multi-material collection). These future scenarios were subsequently evaluated with the LCA methodology to verify and quantify the improvements associated with the various actions implemented. This has provided Regione Lombardia with useful indications for the drafting of the new Regional Waste Management Program. For the first time in Italy the outcomes of a detailed LCA of a current waste management system implemented in an extended area such as that of Lombardy region were utilised to address future policies pursuing the improvement of the environmental performances of the system itself.
The LCA was financially supported by Regione Lombardia through CESTEC - the regional energy agency.
The research involves the full-time work of one researcher, part-time work of another researcher, four MSc students. The LCA-software SimaPro was used for the environmental impact assessment.
Evidence of success
The LCA study was included in its entirety as one of the chapters of the new waste management plan and was used for the definition of the plan waste management scenarios.
LCA results can provide a basis for local governments to measure the potentiality of the MSW management sector to contribute to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (e.g. SDG11, SDG12).
The study highlighted the complexity of this evaluation extended to a broad geographical area as that of Lombardy (i.e. 10 million inhabitants): the need to acquire huge amounts of data, preferably primary data, and the assessment of their quality were the main challenges.
Potential for learning or transfer
The applied methodological approach described in this good practice can be extended to other regions or at national level as well as to other types of waste.
This may be relevant for other regional governments since it may guide them in improving the sustainability of their waste management policies or supporting the monitoring of their own waste management plan, based on well-established and standardized procedures.
It may allow to improve regional competitiveness in successful economic and policy development.