Closing-In the ring session: Balanced Waste Management in Circular Economy (Minimization, Recycling, Thermal Treatment, Sustainable Landfilling)

PLENARY SESSION / 19 November 2020 / 16:15 - 17:15

Introduction by Raffaello Cossu

The first day of the Solid Waste Management course I teach at the University of Padua, Italy, I usually ask the students a simple question: “In your opinion, which is the best system of waste management?” Their immediate reply, in chorus and with very few exceptions, is: “Recycling!” I then go on to the second question:“In your opinion, which is the best means of transport?” After a moment of bewilderment due to this abrupt jump from one topic to another, no response is forthcoming until the first brave person breaks the ice: “It depends!” I ask for an explanation and immediately receive a clear, logical justification. Everyone agrees that it is reasonable to think that to go from Paris to Beijing by car or by train may be nostalgically romantic, or at least adventurous, but it is much more practical to fly there. On the contrary, it would, to say the least, be totally absurd, or even grotesque, to think of catching a plane to go to buy the bread! We further developed the discussion by mentioning how, for reasons of practicality, we rarely use the same means of transport all the time. We walk to the garage to get the car. We use the car to get to the airport. Here we board a plane and, on leaving the plane we may indeed catch a train or take a boat, or……..
I then ask my third question: “Why do you reply «it depends» when referring to means of transport, taking into account your requirements at the time and the context in which you are placed, whilst giving such a decisive answer when focusing on waste management?”
I then go on to ask a fourth question: “Why did it not occur to you to combine the different methods of waste treatment and disposal?” Indeed, in the same way that means of transport are largely diverse, the field of waste management affords a series of well-differentiated options, as follows (minimization of waste generationrecovery and recirculation of material resources present in the wastescombustion of waste with the main aim of reducing waste volumeslandfilling of residual wastes in order to close the material loop).
It is undeniable that, in the same way as transportation these solutions must be combined and integrated. On analyzing the disposal techniques adopted worldwide, it is clear that countries characterized by a high population density (e.g. Japan, Singapore, Denmark, Germany, etc.) benefit enormously from the use of incineration combined with intense programs for the recovery of material resources (sorting, recycling, biological treatment) and with landfilling of residual wastes. At the same time, countries with a low population density prefer to combine waste recycling with landfilling (e.g. Canada, United States, etc.).
We are well aware that all waste management technologies, ranging from composting to landfill, and from mechanical treatment to incineration, are characterized by the emission of contaminants that should be, wherever possible, prevented and rigorously monitored. Even the recovery and recirculation of waste materials results in the accumulation of a series of contaminants contained in the materials, and are certainly not devoid of negative environmental impacts.
However, on taking a closer look, the various means of transport do not fare too well in the field of emission of contaminants and environmental risks. (...) Of course the available technologies are in a position to strongly attenuate the pollution and risks lined to means of transport, but the same is true also for waste management systems.  If a bridge or a house collapses, we do not stop building houses and bridges! We build them with the best sustainable technologies!!!

[Published in Detritus Editorial Vol 02/2018 - Read the full version]

The aim of this session is to kick start discussion among scientists with expertise in different aspects of waste management, of potential controversies for the purpose of clarifying the issues involved in the hope of reaching a mutual conclusion.
This is a new session format geared toward stimulating discussion and insight, whilst distancing people from a so-called "football supporters" approach, in which waste management options are often seen as irrational alternatives, in the same way as the teams in a football championship.

The panel of experts is as follows:


  • Jurate Kumpiene, Luleå University of Technology (SE) / Moderator

    Jurate Kumpiene is a Professor in Waste Science and Technology at Luleå University of Technology, Sweden. She has been implementing research and education in the area of waste management, with particular focus on waste properties, characterization and treatment, as well as risk assessment and remediation of contaminated soil. She has published 50+ scientific papers and book chapters and 50+ conference publications. Member of the International Waste Working Group (IWWG) and an Associate Editor of the journal Waste Management. R&D and innovation projects include close cooperation with national waste management companies, consultancies and entrepreneurs.

  • Raffaello Cossu, University of Padova (IT)

    Full Professor of Solid Waste Management, he has retired since September 2018 from the University of Padova where he led the Research Center of Environmental Engineering. Former President of the School of Environmental and Engineering at the same University from 2000 to 2013. From 2009 to 2017 he was Editor in Chief of Waste Management, the IWWG international scientific journal on waste management published by Elsevier. Since 2018 he is Editor in Chief of DETRITUS - Journal for Waste Resources and Residues, published by CISA Publisher. He was President of IWWG (International Waste Working Group) from 2004 until 2009, and currently is a member, of the Managing Board of the same Association. In 2017 he was recipient of the prestigious "A Life for Waste" Award. He has given a series of talks and presentations in conferences on Waste Management and landfilling throughout the world. He is author of more than 150 scientific papers and five international books on waste management, published by Academic Press, Elsevier, EF and Spon. 

  • Andreas Bartl, TU Wien (AT)

    Since 2002 Andreas Bartl is teaching and researching at Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) at the institute of Chemical Engineering. Before joining the University he worked in the industry at Hirtenberger AG in Lower Austria for four years. He was head of the R&D department for pyrotechnics as well as responsible for the production in the primer plant. His most important project was the development of non-toxic ignition mixtures for small ammunition and automotive applications. Andreas holds a PhD degree in Technical Science from Vienna University of Technology. Andreas holds lectures in mechanical engineering, fiber technology and recycling and is responsible for several laboratory tutorials and seminars in the field of mechanical process engineering. He has supervised several diploma and doctoral theses mainly in cooperation with industrial partners. The topics are located in the field of recycling. The main expertise of Andreas Bartl is located in recycling and the morphological characterization of particles by optical image analysis.

  • Jianhua Yan, Zhejiang University (CN)

    Professor Jianhua Yan is the vice president of Zhejiang University, director of National Engineering Laboratory for Waste Incineration Technology and Equipment, and chair professor of the Cheung Kong Scholars Award Program. His major research interests include clean combustion, pyrolysis and gasification, pollutant control, combustion acquisition, environmental protection in the energy conversion process and waste derived energy, etc. He has published 305 scientific papers and eight books. He owns 57 Chinese invention patents. He got one State Technology Invention Award (second prize), three State Science and Technology Progress Awards (second prize) and one State Innovation Team Award. Professor Yan served as co-chair of the Association of Chinese Graduate School (ACGS) from 2012 to 2016. He is a member of the Discipline Appraisal Group under the State Council. He is vice chairman of the National Alliance of Innovative Waste to Energy.