Exploring “Internet+Recycling”: Mass balance and life cycle assessment of a waste management system associated with a mobile application

Fu Gu, Wujie Zhang, Jianfeng Guo, Philip Hall

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

114 Citations (Scopus)


Individual users cannot readily access the collection channels is a persistent problem in municipal solid waste (MSW) management, resulting in low MSW collection rates. A new waste management model, “Internet+Recycling” has come into being; this model enables individuals to arrange collection appointment through various online platforms, then the collectors pick up the waste on-site. It is believed that “Internet+Recycling” can be a solution to mitigate the collection barrier in MSW management, as it provides individuals a convenient access to formal waste management systems. However, whether this emerging MSW collection model would bring environmental benefits is yet unknown. We here quantitatively examine the mass balance and environmental performance of MSW recycling associated with the use of such a “Internet+Recycling” mobile application - Aibolv. All transactions occurred on the mobile application within a period of six monthare included, and all related activities are modeled using the methodology that combines material flow analysis (MFA) and life cycle assessment (LCA). According to the extant MSW management legislation in China, we classify the collected MSW into three categories, subsidized waste electric and electronic equipment (WEEE) like television and refrigerator – T1, unsubsidized WEEE like mobile phone – T2, and other recyclables like paper and fabric – T3. The MFA results show that plastics and common metals are the dominate secondary material streams, and glass, precious metals and battery metals are mainly recovered from WEEE. The LCA results indicate that the disposal of the T2 waste has the highest environmental savings, due to the recovery of precious metals. Increased remanufacturing rates impart negative impacts, while increments in the quantity of spent mobile phones could significantly improve overall environmental performance. Based on the acquired results, recommendations are provided for facilitating the future development of “Internet+Recycling” and limitations of this work are identified as well.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-185
Number of pages14
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Environmental performance
  • Internet+Recycling
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Municipal solid waste
  • Secondary products
  • Substitution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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