Environmental Balance of An Innovative Waste-To-Energy Plant: The Role of Secondary Emissions

Environmental Balance of An Innovative Waste-To-Energy Plant: The Role of Secondary Emissions

Marco Schiavon Luca Adami Vincenzo Torretta Marco Tubino

Department of Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering, University of Trento, Trento, Italy

Department of Theoretical and Applied Sciences, University of Insubria, Varese, Italy

Available online: 
| Citation



In spite of their positive role in the framework of circular economy, waste-to-energy processes are responsible for the emissions of a large number of air pollutants. Although this sector has made significant improvements in the air pollution control of primary emissions, the role of other sources (i.e. secondary emissions) has been often neglected. This paper aims at investigating the contributions of primary and secondary emissions expected from a waste gasification plant that is planned for the construction in an Alpine valley. The results from this analysis show that secondary emissions would play a significant role in the overall emissive footprint of the plant, contributing to 29% and 10%, respectively, of the overall emissions of dusts and total organic carbon. In the light of such results, secondary emissions would require an appropriate monitoring approach, which should complement the existing monitoring protocols for primary emissions.


air pollutants, environmental impact assessment, environmental monitoring, gasification, waste management


[1] Klinghoffer, N.B. & Castaldi, M.J., (eds.), Waste to Energy Conversion Technology, Woodhead Publishing: Cambridge, 2013.

[2] Rada E.C., Energy from municipal solid waste, WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 190(2), pp. 945–958, 2014.

[3] Malinauskaite, J., Jouhara, H., Czajczyńska, D., Stanchev, P., Katsou, E., Rostkowski, P., Thorne, R.J., Colón, J., Ponsá, S., Al-Mansour, F., Anguilano, L., Krzyżyńska, R., López, I.C., Vlasopoulos, A. & Spencer, N., Municipal solid waste management and waste-to-energy in the context of a circular economy and energy recycling in Europe. Energy, 141, pp. 2013–2044, 2017.

[4] Putna, O., Kropáč, J., Fryba, L. & Pavlas, M. Prediction of heating value of waste and its importance for conceptual development of new waste-to-energy plants, Chemical Engineering Transactions, 39, pp. 1273–1278, 2014.

[5] Tomić, T. & Schneider, D.R., The role of energy from waste in circular economy and closing the loop concept – energy analysis approach. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 98, pp. 268–287, 2018.

[6] Rada E.C., Special waste valorization and renewable energy generation under a circular economy: which priorities?, WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 222, pp. 145–157, 2019.

[7] Ribeiro, A., Soares, M., Castro, C., Mota, A., Araujo, J., Vilarinho, C., Carvalho, J., Waste-to-energy technologies applied for refuse derived fuel (RDF) valorisation, Lecture Notes in Electrical Engineering, 505, pp. 641–647, 2019.

[8] Ferronato, N., Rada, E.C., Gorritty Portillo, M.A., Cioca, L.I., Ragazzi, M. & Torretta, V., Introduction of the circular economy within developing regions: a comparative analysis of advantages and opportunities for waste valorization. Journal of Environmental Management, 230, pp. 366–378, 2019.

[9] Michelini, G., Moraes, R.N., Cunha, R.N., Costa, J.M.H. & Ometto, A.R., From linear to circular economy: PSS conducting the transition. Procedia CIRP, 64, pp. 2–6, 2017.

[10] Schroeder, P., Anggraeni, K., Weber, U., The Relevance of circular economy practices to the sustainable development goals, Journal of Industrial Ecology, 23(1), pp. 77–95

[11] Rada, E.C., Ragazzi, M., Torretta, V., Castagna, G., Adami, L. & Cioca, L.I., Circular economy and waste to energy. AIP Conference Proceedings, 1968, pp. 030050, 2018.

[12] Lausselet, C., Cherubini, F., Oreggioni, G.D., del Alamo Serrano, G., Becidan, M., Hu, X., Rørstad, P.K. & Strømman, A.H., Norwegian waste-to-energy: climate change, circular economy and carbon capture and storage, Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 126, 50–61, 2017.

[13] Incineration of Waste and Reported Human Health Effects; Health Protection Scotland, Online. https://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/resourcedocument.aspx?id=339 (accessed 11 January 2019).

[14] Stehel, V., Dvořák, J., Wittlingerová, Z., & Petruželková, A., Economic contradictions of the waste-to-energy concept and emissions reduction plan (case study, Czech Republic), Energy Sources, Part A: Recovery, Utilization and Environmental Effects, 41(13), pp. 1622–1629, 2019.

[15] Ionescu, G., Zardi, D., Tirler, W., Rada, E.C., Ragazzi, M.M., A critical analysis of emissions and atmospheric dispersion of pollutants from plants for the treatment of residual municipal solid waste, UPB Scientific Bulletin, Series D, 74(4), pp. 227–240, 2012.

[16] Saghir, M., Rehan, M. & Nizami, A.S., Recent trends in gasification based waste-to-energy. Gasification for Low-grade Feedstock, ed. Y. Yun, IntechOpen, pp. 97–114, 2017.

[17] Yepes Maya, D.M., Espinosa Sarmiento, A.L., Vilas Bôas de Sales Oliveira, C.A, Silva Lora, E.E. & Vieira Andrade, R., Gasification of municipal solid waste for power generation in Brazil, a review of available technologies and their environmental benefits. Journal of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, 10, pp. 249–255, 2016.

[18] Aurell, J., Barnes, M., Gullett, B.K., Holder, A. & Eninger, R., Methodology for characterizing emissions from small (0.5–2 MTD) batch-fed gasification systems using multiple waste compositions, Waste Management, 87, pp. 398–406

[19] European Union, Directive 2010/75/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 on industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control). Official Journal of the European Union, Document 32010L0075.

[20] European Union, Directive 2014/52/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 amending Directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment Text with EEA relevance. Official Journal of the European Union, Document 32014L0052.

[21] European Union, Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment Text with EEA relevance. Official Journal of the European Union, Document 32011L0092. Marco Schiavon et al., Int. J. Environ. Impacts, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2020) 93

[22] Arabadjieva, K., ‘Better Regulation’ in environmental impact assessment: the amended EIA directive. Journal of Environmental Law, 28(1), pp. 159–168, 2016.

[23] Lourdes M.C., & Sheate W.R. Cumulative effects assessment: a review of UK environmental impact statements, Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 22(4), pp. 415–439, 2002.

[24] European Union, Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. Official Journal of the European Union, Document 31985L0337.

[25] Archivio procedure VIA; Agenzia Provinciale per l’Ambiente e la Tutela del Clima, Online. http://www.provinz.bz.it/service/resdownload.aspx?source=VIA-UVP&ID=787DAEBC7B6D89A4E050960A253242DC (accessed 20 February 2019).

[26] Google Earth Pro. (accessed 19 February 2019).

[27] Lober, D. J., & Green, D. P., NIMBY or NIABY: a logit model of opposition to solid-waste-disposal facility siting. Journal of Environmental Management, 40(1), pp. 33–50, 1994.

[28] Ren, X., Che, Y., Yang, K., & Tao, Y., Risk perception and public acceptance toward a highly protested waste-to-energy facility. Waste Management, 48, pp. 528–539, 2016.