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Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399

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Selecting sustainable waste-to-energy technologies for municipal

solid waste treatment: a game theory approach for group
Atousa Soltani*, Rehan Sadiq, Kasun Hewage

School of Engineering, University of British Columbia, 1137 Alumni Avenue, Kelowna, BC V1V 1V7, Canada

a r t i c l e i n f o

a b s t r a c t

Article history:
Received 14 April 2015
Received in revised form
30 November 2015
Accepted 1 December 2015
Available online 23 December 2015

An efcient waste treatment strategy should be cost-effective and minimize potential impacts on various
stakeholders and the environment. This study proposes a decision framework that can model the
stakeholder's conicting priorities over the sustainability criteria, when selecting a municipal solid waste
treatment option. The proposed framework compares life cycle sustainability impacts of selected options
and develops a weighing scheme for combining impacts based on stakeholders' preferences. It then uses
game theory to help the stakeholders fairly share the costs and benets, and guides the stakeholders to
reach an agreement on a mutually sustainable and pragmatic solution. In this study, the application of
the framework to select a waste-to-energy technology for Vancouver, Canada is demonstrated. The case
study discusses the prospect of producing refuse-derived fuel by cement industry and the municipality.
Results show that the cement industry and the municipality may mutually benet from the refusederived fuel, if the industry pays a tipping fee of $0.077e0.96 per kg waste to access the required
amount of solid waste from the municipality. The outcome of the framework can help in the approval
and application of an overall sustainable option by both stakeholders and in making the negotiation
more efcient and timely.
2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Municipal Solid Waste Management
Game theory
Analytical hierarchy process (AHP)
Group decision-making

1. Introduction
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) is dened as refuse that originates from residential, commercial, institutional, demolition, land
clearing or construction sources in the Environmental Management
Act (The Government of British Columbia, 2015). The generation of
MSW has doubled, globally, in the past decade, and it is anticipated
to triple in the next decade (The World Bank, 2012). In 2012, one in
eight deaths worldwide were linked to air pollution, a consequence
of unsustainable policies in transport, energy, and waste management sectors (WHO, 2014). In 2008, Canada disposed1 of 777 kg of
MSW per capita, the third highest amount in the world and the
highest amount among the developed countries (Hoornweg and
Bhada-Tata, 2012) (Fig. 1). Canadians disposed of about 25 million
tonnes of MSW (720 kg per capita) in 2012, with the province of

* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (A. Soltani).
The disposed waste refers to the amount of generated waste after diversion and
0959-6526/ 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

British Columbia (BC) making up to 10% of that share (Statistics

Canada, 2015).
Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM) is a complex
process that requires group decision-making on selecting waste
collection routes, transfer stations, and treatment locations and
strategies from various available options (Dewi et al., 2010; Soltani
et al., 2015). The selection of a treatment strategy is one of the most
debated issues in the literature and is the core of MSWM (Achillas
et al., 2013). Waste treatment strategies often comprise landlling
and waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies. An optimal waste treatment strategy is a result of prudent and scientically justiable
decision-making that minimizes the risks to the environment and
human health, and maximizes cost efciency (Sadiq, 2001). A
sustainability paradigm looks for a waste treatment strategy that
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability
of future generations to meet their own needs (Brundtland, 1987).
In the context of MSWM, sustainability refers to the assessment of
environmental, economic, and social impacts of available waste
treatment options. Sustainable waste management aims to reduce
waste generation, re-use and recycle waste materials, and recover
energy to ultimately preserve resources for the future. Recovering

A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399


Fig. 1. Ten countries with the highest disposal of MSW per capita in 2008 (derived from D-waste (2015)).

energy from disposed waste can generate power for municipalities,

offer fossil fuel substitutes to industries, and reduce greenhouse
gases and other hazardous pollutants (Metro Vancouver, 2014a).
There are various sustainability assessment frameworks and
tools available for calculating environmental impacts (e.g. life cycle
Standardization (ISO), 2006a), environmental risk analysis
(SETAC, 2004), environmental impact assessment (Canter, 1977))
and net economic costs (e.g., life cycle costing (LCC) (Blanchard
et al., 1990)). In addition, there are numerous frameworks for
comparing the performances in one criterion to another and
nding a balance. A multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA)
framework provides different methods that can help decisionmakers to nd a suitable trade-off amongst these criteria and
choose an option with the lowest overall impacts (Soltani et al.,
2015). While LCA and LCC are effective in accounting for the impacts of waste treatment options throughout their life cycle, MCDA
methods are required to aggregate their outcomes.
Meanwhile, waste treatment for achieving sustainability goals is
even more complex when multiple stakeholders with conicting
interests are involved. In Canada, collection, diversion (i.e. reuse,
recycling, and composting) and disposal of waste are generally
handled by the municipal governments (Environment Canada,
2012). In addition to the municipal government, multiple stakeholders such as NGOs, environmental experts, general public, and
industries affect policies and decisions related to MSWM. Soltani
et al. (2015) provided a state-of-the-art review with respect to
multiple stakeholders' involvement in MSWM, in which municipalities and experts were found to be involved in decision-making
more than other stakeholders.
Waste treatment often creates a situation where the municipality bears all the costs of waste treatment while other stakeholders benet from it without contributing to the costs; this
situation is known as the free-rider problem. The municipality is
responsible for providing the public goods and services, such as
waste treatment, and ends up paying the associated costs. The freerider problem can discourage the municipality from choosing the
more advanced and more expensive technologies or can result in
the over-using of the provided service. A solution to this problem is
to involve other stakeholders in the decision-making and execution
process. Other stakeholders will be encouraged to contribute towards the relevant costs of sustainable waste treatments, if

municipalities combine these services with other in-demand services (Carraro and Marchiori, 2003). Using WTE technologies for
waste treatment mitigates the free-rider problem by offering
cleaner energy solutions to industries and encouraging them to pay
for the recovered energy and materials; but to make this feasible,
the municipality and industry should rst negotiate their fair share
of costs and benets to mutually agree on a WTE technology.
Hence, effective waste management should evaluate stakeholders'
dialogues in addition to technical assessments (Achillas et al.,
This study proposes a decision framework to help multiple
stakeholders reach an agreement on a sustainable waste treatment option and share the associated costs and benets in a fair
and mutually acceptable way. This framework is especially helpful
for using WTE technology, where often various stakeholders get
involved. This research aims to ll the gap in the literature on
choosing the most sustainable and pragmatic waste treatment
option when stakeholders have conicting priorities.
2. Background information
In this section, components of the proposed framework
including sustainability assessment tools, waste treatment options,
and decision analysis methods are discussed in more detail.
2.1. Sustainability assessment tools
A sustainability paradigm helps in choosing, building, or offering products and services that conserve resources such as money,
water, soil, air, and humans in an acceptable balance. Sustainability
assessment tools such as LCA and LCC can evaluate the environmental impacts and economic costs and benets of selected MSWM
2.1.1. Life cycle assessment
LCA is a popular method that helps experts estimate environmental burdens of products, processes, and services throughout
their life (USEPA, 2006). LCA identies and quanties inputs and
outputs to a system, including materials, energy, waste, and
pollution (SETAC, 1993). According to the ISO 14040 and 14044
standards, LCA consists of four general steps (ISO, 2006a, 2006b):


A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399

1. Goal and scope encompass system boundary, functional unit,

criteria under study, available options, and involved stakeholders. The system boundary is the section of the life of a
product or service that is considered in the LCA. Waste
treatment is often the end-of-life process for products, but in
waste management studies, the life of a disposed waste is
often from the collection point to the waste treatment plant,
landll, and even the re-using destination. The functional
unit is the homogenous unit of waste for which all impacts
are estimated. The criteria are directly connected to the goal
of the study. In sustainable waste management, these
criteria include environmental, economic, and e when
available e social criteria. The available options are the alternatives that are being compared based on the selected
criteria, and the stakeholders are the agents or individuals
that are impacting or being impacted by the outcomes of
these assessment.
2. Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) is a collection of all materials, energy,
and discharges entering a system boundary or released to land,
water, and air. To develop the LCI, a ow chart of input and
output materials and discharges from and to the system
boundary is initially displayed. SimaPro is a comprehensive tool
for collecting data and analyzing the impacts of various products
and services, with access to various databases (e.g., ecoinvent,
Agri-Footprint, European reference Life Cycle Database, and U.S.
Life Cycle Inventory Database).
3. Life cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) groups the inputs and
outputs collected in LCI under environmental impact categories
based on their potential hazards to human health and the
environment. LCIA usually includes the following steps: selection of impact categories, classication, characterization,
normalization, grouping, weighting, and reporting the results
(USEPA, 2006). Based on the ISO standards 14040 and 14044 for
Life Cycle Impact Assessment and their technical report ISO/TR
14047, the most common environmental impact categories are
abiotic depletion (depletion of resources), stratospheric ozone
depletion, summer smog (photochemical oxidation or photo
oxidant formation), acidication, human toxicity, and ecotoxicity (terrestrial and aquatic) (ISO, 2006a, 2006b; 2012). SimaPro
can present both mid-point and end-point impacts using
different impact assessment methods (e.g., CML-IA, EDIP, ILCD,
ReCiPe, BEES, and TRACI). SimaPro also follows different studies
to develop the default characterization factors (e.g., Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for climate change impact
category). A list of all characterization models can be found in
PRe (2015).
4. Interpretation of results is the last step, which includes explanation of the outcomes by experts.
Since LCA does not consider economic or social impacts of a
product or process, LCC is often suggested to be used in parallel
with LCA in a sustainability assessment (Gluch and Baumann,

2.1.2. Life cycle costing

LCC sums up the monetary values of costs and benets from all
stages of the life of a product or service in a system boundary
(Gluch and Baumann, 2004). Common costs include investment,
operation, and borrowing costs, while benets include sale revenues (Carlsson Reich, 2005). Various methods are used to perform
LCC in waste management studies, including Net Present Value
(NPV) (Carlsson Reich, 2005), equivalent annual cost (Tsilemou and
Panagiotakopoulos, 2006), and internal rate of return (Caputo et al.,

In this paper, NPV method is proposed to consider the time

value of money. Future costs and benets (recurrent or one-time)
are discounted to present values using equation (1).



NFV1 rt



where NPV is the present value of net economic cost, NFV is the net
future costs, r is the real interest rate, t is time, and n is the total
number of periods.
It should be noted that decision-making solely based on the
outcomes of LCC will end in subjective decisions that overlook the
environmental dimension (Gluch and Baumann, 2004). Many social
impacts can also be considered through economic assessment (e.g.,
employment, neighbourhood land prices, etc.). There are various
quantitative and qualitative methods for evaluating social impacts
(Refer to a review by Chhipi-Shrestha et al., 2014). Although these
methods are not further discussed in this study, the following subcriteria can be considered for social assessment of waste treatment
- Proximity to residential area (e.g., Noise, Odour (Den Boer et al.,
- Workers' and neighbourhood's safety (Sheppard and Meitner,
- Employment (Den Boer et al., 2007)
- Affordability
- Public acceptability
- Land use (Den Boer et al., 2007)

2.2. Waste-to-energy technologies

Among all MSWM stages, waste treatment is often the main
path toward the protection of the environment and human health,
and growth of the economy (Soltani et al., 2015). In recent years,
waste treatment is facing new constraints as a result of limited
space for landlls, increasing opportunity cost of disposed waste,
and strict environmental regulations (Reza et al., 2013). The
objective of sustainable assessment in the waste context is to
reduce environmental impacts and economic costs of waste treatments, while being aware of their social effects, and eventually
create a balance between these outcomes. Recovering energy from
waste is a more advanced strategy that conceives of waste as an
opportunity rather than a liability.
WTE technologies recover energy in the form of heat, electricity,
or steam, and retrieve bottom ash and metal from disposed waste.
Various WTE technologies are as follows (Metro Vancouver, 2014a):
1. Mass-burn incinerations are the most commonly used WTE
technology. In mass-burn incineration, waste is directly combusted after mild or moderate pre-processing to produce electricity. In this study WTE options refers to mass-burn
2. Gasication and pyrolysis convert waste to syngas or vapour to
generate electricity and heat.
3. Co-combustion of Refuse-derived fuel (RDF) in a cement kiln is
another use of WTE technology in MSW treatment that substitutes fossil fuels with RDF in the production process of
cement. RDF is a solid fuel recovered from high-caloric value
fraction of MSW (Genon and Brizio, 2008; Reza et al., 2013). To
produce RDF, MSW undergoes some or all of the following
stages: sorting or mechanical separation, shredding, screening,
blending, and pelletizing (Gendebien et al., 2003). The extent of
environmental impacts and economic net costs of RDF depends

A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399

on MSW composition in the region, and recovery rate; but

substitution of fossil fuels in an energy-intensive industry such
as cement with RDF will denitely reduce greenhouse gas
emissions and mitigate many environmental concerns (Reza
et al., 2013).

2.3. Decision analysis

The rst step in selecting a sustainable waste treatment strategy
is to calculate the total impact of all options on the stakeholders.
Many frameworks and methods have been developed to combine
the results of environmental and economic assessments (e.g., energy and material intensity metrics (Schwarz et al., 2002), sustainability accounting (Bebbington et al., 2007), MCDA (Contreras
et al., 2008), and monetized ecological footprints (Sutton et al.,
2012)). MCDA, the most popular among these frameworks, is a
collection of various methods that analyzes multiple criteria and
helps decision-makers to rank or select acceptable options, or to
choose one optimal option. Finding a balance among the criteria is
an important part of sustainable development (Neugebauer et al.,
2015). Since impact assessments are presented in different units
and the value of impacts in one criterion is different from the other
ones, using MCDA is necessary to present a unied sustainability
index. In addition, for deciding on investment opportunities in
waste treatment, the concept of MCDM is more helpful than relying
solely on life cycle assessments (Spengler et al., 1998).
However, to use MCDA methods, stakeholders should rst agree
on the criteria of interest and the importance of each criterion in
comparing the available options (Van den Hove, 2006). If stakeholders have conicting priorities over criteria, reaching an
agreement is likely to be challenging (De Feo and De Gisi, 2010).
MCDA techniques aggregate the impacts on stakeholders, but fall
short on considering stakeholders' conicts and their inuences on
each other in reaching a mutual decision. Game theory, on the other
hand, is a natural choice for analyzing the trade-offs between
environment and economy, and considering stakeholders' conicts
and dialogues (Moretti, 2004).
2.3.1. Analytical hierarchy process (AHP)
AHP is a common MCDA technique that offers a mathematical
solution for presenting preferences by using a pairwise comparison
of criteria (Hossaini et al., 2014; Sadiq, 2001). AHP can help experts
assign weights to various criteria, aggregate impacts from those
criteria, and compare MSWM options accordingly. There are ve
steps in AHP (Saaty, 1980):
- Present the problem in a hierarchy of goals, criteria, and
- Collect data on available options and criteria of interest
- Generate a weighting system for criteria through pair-wise
- Rank alternatives by aggregating scores and weights
- Perform a sensitivity analysis to validate the data and mitigate
In AHP, the outcomes of pairwise comparisons are presented in
a priority matrix and developed into a set of priority ratio scale
(Hossaini et al., 2014; Sadiq et al., 2003). In Matrix A [Eq. (2)], each
entry aij shows on what scale criterion i is preferred to criterion j
(Hossaini et al., 2014). The advantages of the pairwise comparison
technique in AHP include its ease of use and understandability for
non-expert users. AHP is also the most common method in waste
treatment studies with multiple stakeholders. Saaty's 9-scale is
often used to compare the criteria verbally (Table 1) (Saaty, 1988). It


Table 1
Saaty's 9-scale (Saaty, 1988).

Verbal denition

2, 4, 6, 8

Equal importance
Moderate importance
Strong importance
Very strong or demonstrated dominance
Extreme importance or strongest afrmation
Intermediate values

is important to be consistent with the scale in pairwise





Weights are often developed from a priority matrix using

various mathematical approaches such as eigenvector, geometric
mean, and arithmetic mean, which are believed to present similar
results and not be signicantly different (Hossaini et al., 2014).
Assuming that matrix A shows the relevant importance of each
criterion against the other ones, the multiplication of A and W
(weight matrix) results in a scalar multiple of W (Saaty, 1994). The
scalar value (Eigenvalue) and W (Eigenvector) are calculated using
equation (3). Once weights are developed, their consistency should
be examined. The values in a matrix are consistent where each
entry aij wi =wj (wi is the weight of criterion or sub-criterion i
ni1 wi 1)) (Tesfamariam and Sadiq, 2006).



Although AHP is more convenient and effective, it suffers from

the same shortcoming as other MCDA techniques in considering
conicts in priorities in a group decision-making process (Tseng
et al., 2009). A few studies in the literature have offered solutions
for conicts among stakeholders (e.g. Munda, 2002; van den Hove,
2006), but game theory is more suitable in choosing among waste
treatment options. Game theory can model different types of interactions among stakeholders and predict the outcomes of
2.3.2. Game theory
Game theory studies self-interested2 stakeholders when they
interact in a series of games (Leyton-Brown and Shoham, 2008).
What makes game theory versatile is its use of mathematical
modelling to understand human interactions. Game theory is based
on the fact that satisfaction of each stakeholder can change in
response to other stakeholders' actions as well as their own. Games
are portrayals of actions that players are interested in and can do,
while solutions present the actions they do take (Osborne and
Rubinstein, 1994).
In a two-player game, game theory rst gathers the information
on stakeholders' utilities (or net benets) from each pair of actions
(e.g., how much will each stakeholder benet if stakeholder 1
chooses action a and stakeholder 2 chooses action b). Based on the
type of decision-making problem, this information is then portrayed in a decision tree or a table. Although each stakeholder
might choose an optimal option when deciding individually, game
theory looks for solutions that are stable in a mutual setting. In this
setting, stakeholders answer a series of what if questions

Self-interested here means that stakeholders prefer some situations to other
situations (or states) and they will act toward making those situations happen
(Leyton-Brown and Shoham, 2008).


A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399

before nalizing their decision. These questions are often asking

whether they would change their decision, if the other stakeholder
chooses any of the possible options.
When WTE technologies are proposed for a region, municipalities and industry need to share costs and benets in a way that
satises both of them. In many studies (e.g., McGinty et al., 2012;
Weikard and Dellink, 2008; Finus, 2000; Kaitala and Pohjola,
1995), game theory offers solutions for fair distribution of costs
and benets among stakeholders to stabilize environmental decisions. Game theory is also an effective method for decisions that
require stakeholders' collaboration (Nagarajan and Sosi
c, 2008).
There have been only a few studies that used game theory for
waste management decision-making. Cheng et al. (2002, 2003)
applied a cooperative game theory approach to select a new landll site. Moretti (2004) proposed a cooperative game theory
method to divide costs of waste collection between municipalities.
Jrgensen (2010) used game theory for a regional waste disposal
problem. Karmperis et al. (2013) proposed a framework called the
waste management bargaining game to help players negotiate over
the surplus prot of various MSWM options. More details on
studies with game theory solutions are presented in Table 2. These
studies do not consider stakeholders' impacts on each other's decisions when interactions are unavoidable. These studies also fail to
guide stakeholders to reach a mutual agreement by changing their
share of costs and benets.
3. Proposed framework
This study proposes a decision framework to address the challenges of choosing a mutually sustainable waste treatment strategy
when the stakeholders have conicting preferences. This decision
framework aims to help the main stakeholders, the municipality,
and industry to reach a mutual agreement on a sustainable and
pragmatic waste treatment option. In this framework, game theory
complements AHP, LCA, and LCC to model the dialogues among
stakeholders and guide them to reach a sustainable solution. Fig. 2
presents a schematic of the proposed framework for waste treatment options. Production and co-combustion of RDF in cement
kilns in Metro Vancouver, Canada is chosen as a case study to
demonstrate the proposed framework.
3.1. Scope denition
The rst step in the proposed framework is to dene the scope
of the study, namely the objectives and scenarios. The objective of

this study is to compare the available waste treatment options in

municipalities and then guide the interested stakeholders to
mutually agree on a sustainable and pragmatic option. The scenarios are often built according to available and proposed waste
treatment options, composition of disposed waste, and involved
3.2. Sustainability assessment
Life cycle assessment and life cycle costing are used as sustainability assessment methods to evaluate the impacts of selected
waste treatment options on each stakeholder. The social impacts
are not separately assessed through social life cycle assessment in
this study, but if available, labour safety, neighborhood land pricing,
and political stability due to the decision are among the factors that
can be considered (De la Fuente et al., 2015). Other factors such as
pollution, changes in employment, and impacts on welfare and
market of natural resources can be considered through environmental and economic impacts. Although in many investment decisions, social factors are often ignored by industry, including the
municipality as the main stakeholder with veto power on the nal
decision helps include social impacts as part of the decision. This
study will focus on the environmental and economic impacts, but
the framework has the ability to take the outcomes of social impact
assessments (grey area in Fig. 2) into the consideration.
In the LCA, the system boundary is dened to include all activities in the life of disposed waste from the disposal of waste at
treatment plants or landll to mechanical treatment, incineration,
and recovery of materials (a cradle to gate approach). In the cradle
to gate approach all activities from the extraction of materials
(disposal of waste) to the execution of the project (recovery of
material and energy or landlling of the waste) are considered. The
transportation of recovered material and energy to the destination
point is not considered. The functional unit is 1 kg of MSW.
The inows and outows of energy, mass, emissions, and discharges to and from the system boundary are derived using the
European Life Cycle Database (ELCD) in SimaPro 8.0 software. ELCD
gathers data on average waste treatment plants and landlls with
leachate control in Europe. The inventories are derived for incineration and landlling of 1 kg of waste components such as paper
and plastic in an average treatment plant or landll in Europe. Inventories are then adapted to waste composition of the region
under study. To perform an impact assessment, inventories are
grouped for each impact category. RECIPE method for mid-point
impacts is used as a default in SimaPro 8.0 to aggregate the

Table 2
MSWM studies with game theory solutions.

Paper/Authors Topic


Location Disposal/

Cooperative Cheng et al.

Cheng et al.

Moretti (2004)

Erkut et al.

et al. (2013),a
Competitive Davila et al.



Partially competitive and cooperative.



Municipality Experts Public Waste

Environment Economy Agriculture Social
Cooperative game theory e
Inexact linear
programming e MCDA
Dynamic cooperative game
Cooperative game theory e
Shapley value
Lexicographic miniemax
Waste management
bargaining game
Grey integer programming
e Zero-sum game

A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399


Fig. 2. Decision framework.

impacts under each mid-point impact category. These values are

then unied and presented for each treatment option.
In the LCC, it is important to dene a scope coherent with the
scope of LCA. A scheme of all costs and benets within the scope of
study is formed and values per functional unit are estimated in
dollars. For this study, previous data on similar waste treatment
plants, experts' knowledge, and published literature are used to
generate these estimates. Costs and benets considered in this
framework are presented in Table 3. Opportunity cost is in fact the
benet that is not achieved as a result of a decision. Carbon tax is
the tax that some governments assign to productions and services
with high levels of greenhouse gas emission. Operation and
maintenance costs are the values that businesses pay monthly or
annually to achieve a desired level of productivity, and these
include salaries, rent, and maintenance of buildings and equipment. Depending on the project under study, the transportation
cost can include the costs of trucks and gas from the disposal station to the treatment plant. Building, equipment, and land costs are
paid at the beginning of the production process as an investment.
Stakeholders earn revenue by selling the recovered material and
energy (as electricity, gas, etc.). If the recovered energy substitutes
Table 3
Costs and benets considered in proposed framework.


Opportunity cost
Carbon tax
Operation and maintenance cost
Transportation cost
Land costs
Building and equipment costs,

Fossil fuel saving

Recovered materials revenue
Energy revenue (e.g. Electricity sale)

fossil fuels, the price of the substituted fossil fuels can be considered as a benet. Sunk costs or costs that have already been paid are
not considered. Net economic cost of each treatment option is
calculated for each stakeholder and then presented in dollar value.
3.3. Decision-making for sustainable waste treatment
Once the magnitude of impacts is calculated, the AHP method is
used to develop weights and then assign them to environmental
and economic criteria in a two-step hierarchy. The rst priority
matrix is developed from pairwise comparison of environmental
impact categories. This matrix shows the signicance of different
environmental impacts on humans and the environment. Although
stakeholders can perform these comparisons on their own, the
framework suggests a more consistent and transparent approach
with scientic proof: Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of
Chemical and other environmental impacts (TRACI). The US EPA
gathered a well-mixed group of experts, industry, and municipalities to develop TRACI, create the priority matrices, and evaluate
weights (Bare, 2002). TRACI provides three weighting systems of
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP), US EPA Science
Advisory Board, and Harvard Kennedy School of Government
(Table 4) (Gloria et al., 2007). The suggested weighting system in
the framework is EPP, as it asks experts to compare the impacts in
short, medium, and long term and then uses AHP to develop the
In the next level of hierarchy, stakeholders are asked to compare
environmental burdens with economic costs to create a priority
matrix (Fig. 3). This matrix is designed to show each stakeholder's
priority, when making a sustainable decision. AHP uses this priority
matrix and the eigenvalue method to calculate weights for the


A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399

Table 4
Weighting systems for environmental impact categories (Gloria et al., 2007).
Impact category


Global warming
Fossil fuel depletion
Criteria air pollutants
Water intake
Human health cancerous
Human health noncancerous
Ecological toxicity
Habitat alteration
Indoor air quality
Ozone depletion

Table 5
Example of a two-player normal game theory model.


Stakeholder 2
Science advisory








Option a
Stakeholder 1

Final weight of environmental impact category iwei wi  we

Sustainability index SI The weight of criterionwm or wei
 relevant impact
Finally, the proposed framework uses game theory to model the
dialogues and predict the best option for each stakeholder. The
normal model in the game theory is used for this framework as it
represents simultaneous decision-making when stakeholders have
full information about each other. The game is portrayed in a matrix
form with stakeholder 1 in rows and stakeholder 2 in columns.
Values in the matrix are sustainability indexes for available and
proposed waste treatment options (Table 5). If equilibrium exists,
the outcome of the game will be a pure strategy. Pure strategy
selects the most sustainable waste treatment option for each
stakeholder. Decisions are stable in the equilibrium point, therefore
stakeholders do not benet from changing their choices.
3.4. Mutual agreement
At this point, if the framework predicts landll for the municipality and a WTE technology for the selected industry, it will

SIij a1 X1 a2 X2 / an Xn

In 2008, Canada's local governments spent $2.6 billion, while

earning $1.8 billion on waste management. Nova Scotia and BC
spent the highest per person ($30) on waste treatment and operation, about twice the national average value (Statistics Canada,
2011). Metro Vancouver aims to reduce waste management costs
and environmental impacts to generate earnings for the municipality. In addition, they are aware of social impacts such as
employment, material and energy markets, and pollution and noise
in the neighbourhood of waste treatment plants. Therefore,








Final weights


4.1. Scope denition for MSWM in Metro Vancouver



j 1; ; n:

The goal of this case study is to implement the developed

framework for WTE decision-making to help Metro Vancouver and
the cement industry in the region by estimating their fair shares of
costs and benets as well as reaching a mutual agreement on RDF.
Metro Vancouver is a regional district in the province of BC, Canada
that consists of 21 municipalities. In this study, Metro Vancouver is
referred to as a municipality.


SI11, SI2c
SI12, SI2c
SI13, SI2c

4. Case study


SI11, SI2b
SI12, SI2b
SI13, SI2b

where SIij is sustainability index of alternative i for stakeholder j, ak

is the coefcient of Xk , and Xk is the kth independent variable (e.g.,
cost estimates, weights, etc.).
The higher the ak , the more dependent is the nal decision to Xk .
This regression equation will show how changes in Xk will affect SI.



i 1; ; n

Level 2 of the hierarchy

Environmental impact categories

Option c

provide no waste for the industry to recover energy from the waste.
Hence, the proposed framework takes it further to estimate fair
shares of costs and benets (i.e. a tipping fee that one stakeholder
should pay to the other one) to make the WTE technology attractive
to the municipality and assure mutual agreement on a sustainable
Independent variables such as waste composition have uncertain values, which can change sustainability indexes and ultimately
stakeholders' decisions. To take this into account, a general
regression equation is presented in equation (6) to estimate the
relation between these variables and sustainability indexes.

Level 1 of the hierarchy


SI11, SI2a
SI12, SI2b
SI13, SI2c

Option 1
Option 2
Option 3

Option b

SIij is the sustainability index of option j for stakeholder i. i {1,2} and
j {1,2,3,a,b,c}.

criteria. The overall weights of the impact categories are now

calculated from the weights developed for the environmental criterion and the TRACI weights. To estimate the utility of the stakeholders or sustainability Indices, the overall weights (signicance
of criteria and sub-criteria) are multiplied by impacts (magnitude of
burdens or costs) (5). In this framework, a higher sustainability
index means that the waste treatment option is less sustainable for
the stakeholder.




Fig. 3. Weights for each stakeholder in a two-level hierarchy.


A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399

additional steps are always taken to make sure these impacts are
minimized. For example, waste treatment plants are built in industrial neighbourhoods and it is considered that new waste
treatment plants follow increased employment in the waste
Metro Vancouver's MSWM plan includes recycling and re-using
of waste materials, producing energy from waste, and disposing of
the rest in landlls. In 2010, around 1.4 million tonnes of solid
waste, equivalent to about 45% of the generated waste, were
disposed of in landlls or burned in the WTE plant (Metro
Vancouver, 2010). Delta and Cache Creek landlls receive waste
from the Metro Vancouver area. The WTE facility in Burnaby
currently carries out mass burn thermal treatment.3 Metro Vancouver plans to build a new WTE plant, and RDF is one of the
proposed options for this upcoming plant (Reza et al., 2013; Metro
Vancouver, 2014b). About 58% of waste is recycled now, while the
target is to recycle 80% by 2020. For the 700,000 tonnes of waste
remaining after 80% diversion, the planned distribution is as follows (Metro Vancouver, 2013):
- 50,000 tonnes to Delta landll
- 280,000 tonnes to Burnaby WTE plant
- 370,000 tonnes to new WTE plant
In this case study, the two stakeholders of Metro Vancouver and
the cement industry are proposing the new waste treatment option
of combusting RDF in cement kilns. Besides RDF, other scenarios in
this case study are landlling and WTE (mass-burn). To fully understand the scope of these scenarios, waste composition in Metro
Vancouver is presented in Table 6.
4.2. Sustainability assessment
Sustainability assessment in this case study is mainly built on
the results from a study conducted by Reza et al. (2013), where
environmental and economic impacts of RDF were compared with
existing waste treatment options in Metro Vancouver. In 2013,
around 3.4 million tonnes of MSW were disposed of in Metro
Vancouver. Three different scenarios were considered for treatment
of the disposed waste, in this study:
- Landlling of the disposed waste. The composition of mixed
MSW in Vancouver is used for estimation of landlling impacts.
- Mass-combustion of the disposed waste. The composition of
mixed MSW in 2013 is used for the calculation of impacts.
- Co-combustion of RDF in cement kilns in Vancouver. Cement
kilns are assumed to be close to potential cement manufacturers.
In previous studies, RDF production recovered 20e50% of the
disposed MSW (Nithikul, 2007; Rotter et al., 2004; Gendebien
et al., 2003). In this study, 40% of the disposed MSW (e.g., paper, plastic, wood, textile, rubber, and leather) is recovered for
RDF production and co-combustion in cement kilns.
For LCA, inputs and outputs (e.g., materials, energy, and emissions) from landlling and incineration of each component of waste
were collected from SimaPro 8.0 and then adapted to Vancouver's
waste composition (Table 7). The values in Table 7 show the midpoint impacts of 1 kg MSW in each impact category. For RDF cocombustion in cement kilns, the required technological changes
in the production line, additional indoor air emissions in the plant,
and the impacts on the quality of cement are not considered or
discussed. Since RDF has not yet been used in cement kilns in


Table 6
Metro Vancouver MSW composition in 2013 (Metro Vancouver, 2014c).
MSW components
Compostable organics
Leather/multiple composite
Building material
Electronic waste
Household hazardous
Household hygiene
Bulky objects

Vancouver in 2013 (%)


Wood, textile, rubber, and leather are reported in total under non-compostable

Canada, some additional impacts may exist that are not considered
in this study.
To perform LCC for this case study, landlling costs were based
on the current tipping fee of $0.108 per kg waste (City of Vancouver,
2013). Cost of landlling for the industry is the opportunity cost of
not choosing WTE or RDF, which is the cost of fossil fuels in their
current practice. Price of coal was considered as $0.07 per kg coal
(78$ per ton). The energy of 1 kg coal is 24.5 MJ (Reza et al., 2013)
equivalent to 6.80 kWh, while the output energy for 1 kg of MSW in
the WTE plant in Burnaby was 15 MJ or 4.2 kWh in 2007 (TRI
Environmental Consulting Inc, 2008). In addition, when landlling is chosen as the waste treatment option, industry should pay
carbon tax at the rate of $30 per tonne of CO2 equivalent emissions
(BC Ministry of Finance, 2014).
WTE prots for municipality include metal recovery and electricity sale. If WTE is chosen, industries save on fossil fuel and
carbon tax. Metro Vancouver earns on average about $6 million per
year from electricity produced in the WTE facility (120,000 MWh)
and $1.4 million per year from recovered metal (Metro Vancouver,
2014a). One (1) kg of waste generates $0.005 revenue from 0.03 kg
scrap metal and $0.022 revenue from electricity. Construction,
operation, and land costs of the existing WTE facility were
considered as sunk costs.
Landll reduction of 60% (derived from Reza et al., 2013) was
considered as a benet for the municipality, and tax saving, fuel
saving, and metal recovery were considered as benets for industry. Since stakeholders impact each other, LCC is presented to
show the result of these impacts (Table 8). Metro Vancouver is
considering 10 potential treatment plans for the future, among
which two options are planning to use RDF (Metro Vancouver,
2014d). Therefore, it is assumed that Metro Vancouver can still
produce RDF without the cement industry but the cost will be
slightly higher. In addition, the cement industry would follow its
current practice if Metro Vancouver chooses landll or WTE.
Table 8 shows the LCC results of stakeholders selecting a pair of
actions at the same time. For example, when stakeholder 2 (Metro
Vancouver) decides to landll waste and stakeholder 1 (cement
industry) prefers RDF, the economic impacts on stakeholder 2 and 1
are $0.63 and $0.108 per kg MSW, respectively.
4.3. Decision-making for multiple stakeholders

In this case study, WTE option refers to mass burn treatment used in the
Burnaby plant.

The developed framework creates two levels of weights for

environmental and economic criteria and their sub-criteria. TRACI


A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399

Table 7
Environmental impact assessment for Metro Vancouver case study.
Impact category



WTE (Mass-combustion)

Co-combustion of RDF in cement kilns

Ozone depletion
Global warming
Non carcinogenics
Respiratory effects

kg CFC-11 eq
kg CO2 eq
kg O3 eq
mol H eq
kg N eq
kg PM10 eq




Table 8
Economic net costs for case study in Metro Vancouver.
Stakeholder 1's choiceeStakeholder 2's choice

Stakeholder 1 e Industry ($ per kg MSW)

Stakeholder 2 e Municipality ($ per kg MSW)




Negative value indicates earnings.

provides the weights of the environmental impact categories.

These weights are similar for both stakeholders. According to the
specics of each case study and the availability of impact data, the
collection of impact categories can vary. Once the impact categories
are selected, their weights can be calculated (out of 100%) from the
original EPP weights (Table 9).
In addition, the authors have made reasonable assumptions
based on their expert judgements for stakeholders' priorities in
comparing environmental and economic criteria. They have made
assumptions about the stakeholder's priorities (i.e. whether they
prefer environmental or economic criterion) and the degree of
those priorities (i.e. how much they prefer one criterion over
another). These judgements arrive from the authors' involvement
in many individual and group discussions with Metro Vancouver
and the cement industry, and participation in relevant conferences
by Metro Vancouver. Metro Vancouver has continuously explored
sustainable waste management plans to prioritize the environment and human health, while it is a safe assumption that the
cement industry would only invest in an option when it is
nancially sound. Table 10 presents the subsequent priority matrix. The stakeholders express their preferences through pairwise
comparisons of criteria, using Saaty's 9-scale. Weights of environmental impacts and net economic costs are estimated for each
stakeholder using AHP.
Table 10 shows that the economic net cost is a much greater
concern for industry as opposed to the municipality. Final weights
are calculated by multiplying the weights of the environmental
impact categories and the weight of environmental criterion itself.

Table 10
The second priority matrix and weighting system for Metro Vancouver case study.

Weights (%)

Stakeholder 1 e Industry

Stakeholder 2 e









Since economic criterion is not branched out into other sub-criteria,

its initial and nal weights are the same.
In the next step, the sustainability index of each waste treatment option is calculated from the impacts and nal weights of
the criteria. Game theory presents these sustainability indices in a
table format with stakeholder 1 (the cement industry) in the
rows and stakeholder 2 (Metro Vancouver) in the columns. In this
study, game theory searches for pure strategy solutions (a
denitive solution rather than a mixture of solutions). The solution shows that RDF is a dominant strategy for the cement industry as RDF always has a lower or equal sustainability index, in
spite of Metro Vancouver choosing any other option. WTE is also
a strict dominant strategy for Metro Vancouver. As a result, game
theory analysis suggests that WTE and RDF are the best options
for Metro Vancouver and for the cement industry, respectively,
considering the current assumptions (Table 11). The industry
should pay a tipping fee to convince the municipality to select the
RDF option.

Table 9
The rst-level weights for Metro Vancouver case study.
Weights of the selected environmental sub-criteria (%)


C1. Abiotic

C4. Global
Acidication Eutrophication warming 100

C5. Ozone

C6. Human

C7. Fresh aquatic


C8. Terrestrial

C9. Photochemical




Si: Stakeholders, Ci: Sub-criteria.



A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399


shows that in producing RDF, economic net cost has the highest
impact on the sustainability index of the cement industry, while
plastic has the highest positive impact on sustainability index of
Metro Vancouver. At all times, the sustainability index of the
cement industry from RDF is higher than that of Metro Vancouver.

Table 11
Game theory results for Metro Vancouver case study.

5. Summary and conclusions

MSWM is complex and can have high costs. Waste treatment
strategy is the core of MSWM, due to the signicance of its environmental and economic impacts. To choose and apply a sustainable waste treatment option, municipalities generally develop
partnerships with other stakeholders such as industries. In case of
selecting a WTE treatment technology, this partnership has a side
of competition as the valuable product of energy enters the system.
Therefore, reaching a mutual agreement among multiple stakeholders with conicting priorities is often a complicated affair. If a
mutual agreement is not reached, the disposed waste is not
directed into the most mutually sustainable path.
This study proposes a decision framework to assist two stakeholders with conicting priorities in evaluating environmental and
economic e and whenever available, social e impacts of selected
waste treatment options and choosing the most mutually sustainable one. Sustainable options are different from each stakeholder's
point of view, which results in sustainable options to often not get
selected by both stakeholders. This will result in a perfectly
reasonable treatment option to never get approved. This framework estimates stakeholders' fair shares of costs and benets and
helps them reach a mutual agreement on a single, optimal option
that is environmentally superior and economically feasible. The
developed framework uses LCA, LCC, and AHP to help stakeholders
to compare various options, and then applies game theory to model
stakeholders' actions, conicts, and dialogues. The results of this
framework will help municipalities to explore more advanced and
sustainable treatment options such as WTE technologies and avoid
the free-rider problem.
The application of the developed framework was demonstrated
with a case study of RDF in Metro Vancouver. Two stakeholders of
Metro Vancouver and the cement industry compared sustainability
impacts of landlling, using mass-burn WTE, and co-combusting

4.4. Mutual agreement on RDF option

The tipping fee should be an amount that will convince the
municipality to prefer RDF to WTE, while keeping the industry
interested in RDF. The developed framework suggests that if the
cement industry pays a tipping fee of $0.077e0.96 per kg waste to
Metro Vancouver, both stakeholders will benet from a proposed
new RDF plant in Vancouver, BC (7, 8). This value is calculated based
on previous assumptions.

$0:24 0:75x < $0:47/x < $0:96


$0:01  0:13x <  $0:02/x > $0:077


where x is a positive tipping fee per kg MSW.

For Metro Vancouver to efciently plan future MSWM strategies, the relationship between RDF's sustainability index and independent variables was presented in a regression equation. This
regression will show how important the impact of uncertainties is
on the outcome of the framework. More detailed uncertainty
assessment is required in the future to include more sources of
uncertainty. Waste composition and economic net cost carry
parameter uncertainty due to unavailability of complete and precise data. Therefore, waste composition components and economic
net cost versus nal sustainability index for RDF was graphed. Fig. 4












Sustainability Index

RDF for cement industry

net cost


RDF for Metro Vancouver


Changes in the variable

Fig. 4. Parameter uncertainty of RDF in Metro Vancouver case study.


A. Soltani et al. / Journal of Cleaner Production 113 (2016) 388e399

RDF in cement kilns to investigate the possibility of collaborating

on a new RDF treatment plant. As a result, mass-burn WTE and RDF
were selected as the most sustainable options for Metro Vancouver
and the cement industry, respectively. The developed framework
estimated that a tipping fee of $0.77e$0.96 per kg MSW should be
paid by the cement industry to Metro Vancouver, so that RDF can be
applied as Metro Vancouver's new waste treatment option and the
cement industry's solution to high-intensity fossil fuel consumption. This value is only based on assumptions and factors considered in this paper. Without the proposed framework, the
collaboration might not take place, or negotiations might be
There are various types of uncertainties (parameter, model, and
scenario) in this framework that will affect the robustness of the
results. Parameter uncertainty refers to vague, incorrect, and
imprecise values such as composition of MSW in Metro Vancouver,
input and output emission, data derived from other databases and
tools, as well as assumptions made for costs and benets. Model
uncertainty discusses inaccurate hypotheses about the general
model or relationship of variables such as impact assessment outcomes and the game theory model. Scenario uncertainty is concerned with the environment of assessments such as differences in
the regions of collected data and case study. These uncertainties
should be explored in more detail in a future study. To show the
sensitivity of the outcomes of the framework to the uncertainties, a
sensitivity analysis is performed. The assessment of the uncertainties in waste composition and economic net cost shows that
RDF is preferred by industry at all times. Also, sustainability indexes
of industry and the municipality are more impacted by economic
net cost and share of plastic in waste composition, respectively.
Social impacts are difcult to assess quantitatively and carry the
subjectivity of decision-makers into the decision-making process.
The developed framework has the ability to combine the outcomes
of social life cycle assessment methodologies with environmental
and economic assessment results according to the stakeholders'
priorities, but it does not discuss methodologies for quantifying
these impacts. In addition, there is no other case of co-combustion
of RDF in cement kilns in Canada, which makes the evaluation of
social impacts prone to subjectivity, hard to evaluate, and out of the
scope of the case study. While social impacts are not quantied for
the discussed case study, they are still believed to impact municipality's actions and priorities.
The most challenging part of this framework was providing
accurate data and real scenarios that represented the waste treatment in a region and interactions among stakeholders. Other limitations of this framework and potentials for future studies include
consideration of interest rate in LCC, consideration of additional
costs of RDF in LCC, using other software packages for LCA, using
real stakeholders for pair-wise comparisons, expansion of twoplayer game into n-player game, and consideration of other game
theory models (e.g. uncertainty about other stakeholders' actions)
in the framework.
We would like to thank NSERC for the nancial support from
second and third authors' NSERC-DG grants. We also appreciate the
help of Ms. Sarah Wellman at Metro Vancouver, Ms. Yihting Lim at
TRI Environmental Consulting, and Mr. Navid Hossaini and Mr.
Fasihur Rahman at UBC.
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