A Systems Engineering Approach to National Waste Management
Doctoral thesis, 2000

During recent decades, waste management has gradually shifted focus, from waste disposal to integrated waste management of potentially valuable resources and residues. The number and variety of waste streams to handle is large, as well as the diversity of treatment options available. This makes finding cost-effective and environmentally acceptable waste management solutions a complex task. Moreover, recovering resources from waste leads to interaction with sectors beyond waste management, such as the markets for material and energy, which increases the scope to analyse when looking for new waste management solutions. Systems engineering models for waste management can serve as tools to assist decision-makers in the planning of waste management. A systems engineering model for strategic planning of national waste management, NatWaste (National Waste), is presented in this thesis. NatWaste is a tool for finding synergistic waste management solutions and analysing the potential effect of different policy instruments and uncertainties in the system environment on a national level. Economic and environmental aspects are addressed. Decision-makers in strategic planning of national waste management are the potential target audience for the NatWaste model. A waste management study, performed in a real planning context in a Swedish region, provided important knowledge for developing NatWaste. Within the study, a decision basis that the region could use for waste management planning was also developed. The use of the NatWaste model is demonstrated in studies of current issues in Swedish national waste management. Technical options for waste management and the potential influence of waste management policy on the choice of these options were central in all applications. The economic and potential global warming implications of recovering energy from waste in Sweden were analysed and compared from two perspectives - the waste management and the district heating perspectives. The effect of including indirect environmental impacts on the choice of waste management solutions on a Swedish national level was demonstrated. The studies show that the economic and environmental viability of waste management solutions are not only issues from the point of view of waste management. Knowledge about the sectors that interact with waste management, such as district heating, power and material, and how they might develop can be crucial. This indicates that there is a potential for co-ordinating interacting sectors in both economic and environmental aspects. Systems engineering models for waste management, like the NatWaste model, are tools that can assist in planning of such strategies. However, information from these models needs to be complemented with that of tools addressing interacting sectors.

waste management planning

biological treatment

district heating

global warming potential

environmental impact

material recovery

systems engineering

energy recovery


waste management


Maria Ljunggren Söderman

Department of Energy Conversion

Subject Categories

Other Environmental Engineering



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 1665

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