Food waste in Beijing - life cycle assessment approach to estimating the environmental impact and resource utilization of various alternatives for food waste treatment in Beijing
Abstract: Around the world, the treatment of food waste is a major administrative and environmental problem throughout the food supply chain. Beijing, as any other mega city, is facing vast issues of sustainable food waste treatment in addition to efforts for food waste reduction. Presently the majority of Beijing's food waste is treated together with the mixed residual waste in landfills (53%) and incinerators (43%) with only 4.3 % of the food waste being organically recycled. This despite the majority of Beijing's municipal solid waste being food waste. Beijing is quickly developing its incineration capacity due to the volume reduction and energy recovery potential. Treating the food waste with anaerobic digestion could provide an alternative waste-to-energy method which includes resource recycling. Demands for the by-products of anaerobic digestion appear to increase as demand for natural gas and demand for organic produce is predicted to increase in China. The software WAMPS (Waste Management Planning System) is used to investigate six scenarios for the various possibilities of future food waste treatment in Beijing using a life cycle perspective. The scenarios are modelled after a goal scenario where 50% of the food waste is recycled and a half way scenarios between present situation and the goal. The study concludes that incineration is the most environmentally friendly alternative but foremost shows a lot of room for improvement for the present management system. The results are largely influenced by the coal based electricity production in China which causes severe environmental problems and offers great environmental advantages when reduced and replaced with cleaner electricity. The case study does not consider the sustainable use of resources, only eutrophication, acidification, greenhouse gas emissions, and photo oxidant formation.
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