Assessing the transition of municipal solid waste management by combining material flow analysis and life cycle assessment

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35 Citations (Scopus)


European Commission has promulgated a series of directives to divert MSW from landfills to more sustainable management options. To investigate whether the directives affect the MSW management practice locally, the transition of MSW management in Nottingham, UK, since the enforcement of the EU Landfill Directive, has been assessed by combining materials flow analysis (MFA) and life cycle assessment (LCA). The results confirm that paralleled to the enforcement of the EU directives MSW management system in Nottingham evolved from a simple landfill and energy from waste (EfW) mode to a complex multi-technology mode. Landfill rate has been reduced through waste prevention, material recycling, and energy recovery. The complex multi-technology mode contributed to the reduced GHG emission per unit waste treated from 1,076.0 kg CO2–eq./t in 2001/02 to 228.1 kg CO2–eq./t in 2019/20. The temporal correlation between enforcement of EU directives and the progression of the MSW management in Nottingham depicted a trickle-down effect of the directives driving the improvement of local MSW management. Similar temporal patterns were exhibited among the EU member states. Interestingly, some European countries whose landfill rate already surpass the requirement prior to the enforcement of the related EU directives continued advancing waste management system, mostly incentivized by extracting valuable materials or energy from the well-sorted waste. This incentive, aligning with the principle of circular economy, may become the future drive of cities like Nottingham, who either achieved the regulatory targets or without regulatory incentives by the international governmental bodies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105966
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • Circular economy
  • Global warming potential
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Material flow analysis
  • Municipal solid waste

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Economics and Econometrics


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