Environmental assessment of municipal solid waste incinerator bottom ash in road constructions

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: There are several incentives for using bottom ash from municipal solid waste incineration (MSWI bottom ash) as a construction material, such as for road construction. These incentives include decreased disposal of material on landfills and a reduced amount of raw material extracted for road building purposes. However, one of the main obstacles to utilising the material is uncertainties regarding its environmental properties. The overall objective of this thesis is to describe the potential environmental impacts of utilising MSWI bottom ash in constructions and to improve the tools for environmental assessments.An environmental systems analysis (ESA) approach based on a life cycle perspective was outlined and used in a case study, with the aim of describing the differences in resource use and emissions that can be expected if crushed rock in the sub-base of a road in the Stockholm region in Sweden were to be substituted by MSWI bottom ash. The whole life cycle of the road was taken into account and the alternative disposal of the bottom ash was included. It was found that the studied alternatives would cause different types of potential environmental impact; whereas the conventional alternative with only crushed rock in the road’s sub-base would lead to larger use of energy and natural resources, the alternative with MSWI bottom ash in the sub-base would lead to larger contaminant leaching. It was concluded that a life cycle approach is needed in order to include both resource use and emissions in the comparison between the two alternative scenarios. The leaching of metals turned out to be the most important environmental aspect for the comparison and in particular the difference in copper (Cu) leaching was shown to be large.However, a large amount of Cu may not pose an environmental threat if the Cu is strongly bound to dissolved organic carbon (DOC). In order to improve the basis for toxicity estimates and environmental risk assessments, and thereby provide better input values for ESAs, the speciation of Cu to DOC in MSWI bottom ash leachate was studied. It was found that Cu to a large extent was bound to DOC, which is consistent with previous research. The results also suggest that the hydrophilic fraction of the MSWI bottom ash DOC is important for Cu complexation and that the pH-dependence for Cu complexation to MSWI bottom ash DOC is smaller than for natural DOC. This implies that models calibrated for natural DOC may give inconsistent simulations of Cu-DOC complexation in MSWI bottom ash leachate.