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Modelling material cascades — frameworks for the environmental assessment of recycling systems

TitleModelling material cascades — frameworks for the environmental assessment of recycling systems
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsMcLaren J, Parkinson S, Jackson T
Journal TitleResources, Conservation & Recycling
Volume31
Pages83-104
KeywordsDynamic non-linear modelling, Energy analysis, Life cycle assessment, Material cascades, Material flow accounting, recycling
AbstractThe authors develop a methodological framework for the environmental assessment ofmaterials recycling systems. Typically such systems exhibit both dynamic and non-linearbehaviour. By contrast, many existing environmental assessment techniques (such as LifeCycle Assessment and Materials Flow Analysis) employ a static linear model of theunderlying system. This paper first reviews some of the attempts to develop dynamicnon-linear models for materials systems. It then discusses the structural peculiarities ofrecycling systems drawing attention in particular to the presence of dynamic features (suchas time lags between production and disposal) and non-linearities (such as the dependency ofscrap collection energies on the flow of material through the recycling loop). The principalanalytic task of this paper is to construct an illustrative case study, in which differentmodelling techniques are used to assess the energy requirements of a hypothetical recyclingsystem possessing both dynamic and non-linear features. The difference in system energyintensity derived using the different types of model are analysed. Finally, the paper discussesthe policy implications of these results.
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