Deriving Environmental Life Cycle Inventory Factors for Land Application of Garden Waste Products Under Northern European Conditions

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The amount of waste which is being recycled is increasing in Europe. Garden waste is increasingly composted and land applied. However, composting to full maturity requires resources in terms of space, equipment and labour. Alternatives could include a simple shredding, or composting for a shorter time. Finally, an option could be to remove trunks and large branches which are not easy to compost and incinerate them to recover energy. In order to assess these options and the associated environmental impacts, it is necessary to have good estimates of emissions and other inventory factors during the different steps of the life cycle of the compost products. Especially, the impacts occurring after land application are difficult to estimate. The objective of the current paper is to estimate environmental inventory factors for land application of four garden waste products: shredded garden waste, shredded garden waste after removal of the woody fraction, immature garden waste compost and mature garden waste compost. Soil incubations of the materials were conducted in order to assess the carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics occurring after incorporation in soil. Subsequently, the results were used to calibrate the mineralisation kinetics of the materials in the agroecosystem model Daisy. Subsequently, the model was used to simulate C and N dynamics under different environmental conditions and emissions to the environment and used to derive inventory factors. Nine soil and climate combinations were included in the simulation study to cover local conditions commonly found in Northern Europe. The degradability of the garden waste products increased when the woody fraction of garden waste was removed and generally the degradability of the product was decreased by composting. All four products showed initial immobilisation of N in soil, but it was clear that removal of the woody fraction and composting reduced the length and severity of the immobilisation phase. The approach taken in the current paper using soil incubations to estimate decomposition parameters for the materials and subsequently an agroecosystem model to extrapolate the observations proved efficient at estimating inventory factors under various environmental conditions and fertilisation levels. Under low N availability conditions, the harvest factor, which estimates the fraction of N harvested in response to application of an amount of compost ranged between 0.10 and 0.18 for a sandy loam soil and medium precipitation conditions for Northern European while it ranged from negative values to 0.12 under conditions of ample N supply. These results were also clearly reflected in the emission factors for N leaching to the groundwater and losses to surface water, which were higher under high N availability than under low. The harvest factor, emission factors for ammonia, N leaching to ground water and loss to surface water proved to be very dependent on the local conditions like the soil type, precipitation regime and general fertilisation level, whereas the biochemical composition of the materials was of less importance for these factors. In contrast, the C sequestration factor was almost unaffected by the environmental conditions but depended to a large extent on the degradability of the added material.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Modeling and Assessment
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)21-35
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019

    Research areas

  • C sequestration, Compost, Composting, Daisy, Emission modelling, NO emissions, Nitrate leaching, Simulation modelling

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