Optimization of Hazardous Waste Remediation Activities Using Life Cycle Assessment
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The cleanup of hazardous waste sites promotes sustainability by removing toxins and other health threats left in the environment from previous unsustainable industrial practices. However, the remediation process consumes energy, water, and natural resources, creating an environmental footprint that is often overlooked. In order to account for the footprint created from remediation, the study emphasizes the need for more sustainable remediation techniques and tests the use of life cycle assessment (LCA) to analyze the environmental impacts of treatment technologies prior to being implemented at a contaminated site. The environmental footprints of three remediation strategies prescribed for a contaminated site in Palo Alto, California, are compared using life cycle assessment. The study compares bioremediation with pump-and-treat technology, and a hybridized alternative. The results of the LCAs indicate that implementation of the bioremediation alternative results in the least impact to the environment. Bioremediation would contribute 5,435 tons of CO2 equivalents into the atmosphere, compared to the 22,586 tons of generated by pump-and-treat, and the 11,281 tons generated from the hybrid alternative. The study considers major contributing processes associated with all on-site and off-site activities, and quantifies their overall contribution with respect to the three alternatives. This information can be used by decision-makers to optimize the selection of cleanup activities and identify where additional sustainability benefits can be achieved within each alternative. The study recommends that LCA and green remediation techniques be implemented nationally at all contaminated sites. Using the tool for all cleanups will reduce the environmental impact created from remediation and subsequently provide for a more sustainable future.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
Subjecthazardous waste, remediation
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