Sensitivity analysis and improvements of the recycling rate in municipal solid waste life cycle assessment: Focus on a Latin American developing context

Navarro Ferronato, Luca Moresco, Gabriela Edith Guisbert Lizarazu, Marcelo Antonio Gorritty Portillo, Fabio Conti, Vincenzo Torretta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The life cycle assessment (LCA) of municipal solid waste (MSW) systems in developing countries is a matter of research. Obtain reliable results is challenging since field data and local databases are not always available. The research presented in this paper explores this issue in La Paz (Bolivia), where six environmental impact categories were assessed. The LCA, related to the formal MSW management system of the city, involves a sensitivity analysis of ten parameters and the scenario assessment in relation to the increase of the recycling rate. Results report that the environmental impacts are mostly sensitive in relation to landfill gas collection efficiency, use of plastic bags, the transportation distances of collected waste, and the replacement rate of virgin materials. Global warming potential is the impact category most variable (341.38–551.95 kg CO2-eq tMSW−1), although it is not considerably reduced by recycling, which contributed mostly to the human toxicity and freshwater aquatic ecotoxicity. Doubling the amount of MSW recycled, from 235 t to about 473 t per year, human toxicity potential reduces of about 18% while freshwater aquatic ecotoxicity of about 12%. This research contributes for evaluating the most sensitive parameters in an MSW–LCA and to support policymakers towards waste recycling and sustainable development in Latin America developing cities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalWaste Management
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research has been conducted in La Paz (Bolivia), within the project ‘LaPazRecicla’, financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS) and implemented in cooperation with the Autonomous Municipal Government of La Paz. The action will support the introduction of new recycling systems, where the LCA is used in order to quantify the consequent environmental benefits. Therefore, the results obtained by the analysis find application in a current recycling action. It follows a pre-analysis conducted in 2018 ( Ferronato et al., 2020a ), the first LCA conducted in Bolivia in relation to the improvement of a MSW management system. Another LCA application was implemented in the same Andean plateau for evaluating the benefits of avoiding open dumping and recycling in the Bolivian context ( Ferronato et al., 2020b ). However, these analyses suffer from incomplete inventories and the lack of sensitivity analysis related to the parameters affecting results of LCA implemented in local contexts. The outcomes of the analysis can be of interest both for Bolivian as well as LAC stakeholders, and international practitioners interested in LCA and sustainable MSW management.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Bolivia
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • International cooperation
  • Recycling
  • Solid waste management
  • Sustainable development


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