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Issue 1, 2013
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Modeling the flows of engineered nanomaterials during waste handling

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Little is known about the behavior of engineered nanomaterials (ENM) at the interface from the technosphere to the ecosphere. Previous modeling of ENM flows to the environment revealed that significant amounts of ENM enter the waste stream and therefore waste incineration plants and landfills. It is the aim of this study to model the flows of ENM during waste incineration and landfilling in greater depth by including a more detailed description of the different processes and considering ENM-specific transformation reactions. Four substances were modeled: nano-TiO2, nano-ZnO, nano-Ag and carbon nanotube (CNT). These ENM are representative for commonly used materials and products, illustrating a variety of ENM with different behavior. The modeling was performed for Switzerland where almost 100% of the municipal waste and sewage sludge are burned. The mass-based modeling showed that – despite several differences among the models for nano-TiO2, nano-ZnO and nano-Ag (e.g. partial dissolution of nano-ZnO in acid washing of exhaust air or fly ash) – the major ENM flows go from the waste incineration plant to the landfill as bottom ash. All other flows within the system boundary (e.g. with the fly ash) were predicted to be about one magnitude smaller than the bottom ash flow. A different ENM distribution was found for CNTs that are expected to burn to a large extent (94%) so that only insignificant amounts remain in the system. The results of the modeling show that waste incineration can have a strong influence on some ENM but that still the majority of the ENM-mass is expected to end up in landfills.

Graphical abstract: Modeling the flows of engineered nanomaterials during waste handling

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Publication details

The article was received on 14 Sep 2012, accepted on 15 Nov 2012 and first published on 05 Dec 2012

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C2EM30761H
Citation: Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2013,15, 251-259
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    Modeling the flows of engineered nanomaterials during waste handling

    N. C. Mueller, J. Buha, J. Wang, A. Ulrich and B. Nowack, Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2013, 15, 251
    DOI: 10.1039/C2EM30761H

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