The role of Mechanical–Biological Treatment (MBT) is still of the utmost importance in the management of residual Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). These plants can cover a wide range of objectives, combining several types of processes and elements. The aim of this work is to assess and compare, from an environmental point of view, the performance of seven selected MBT plants currently operating in different countries, which represent the main MBT layout and processes. For the scope, a combined Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Material Flow Analysis (MFA) approach has been adopted to assess plant-specific efficiencies in materials and energy recovery. Metals recovery was a common and high-efficiency practice in MBT; further recovery of other types of waste was often performed. Each assessed MBT plant achieved environmental benefits: among them, the highest environmental benefit was achieved when the highest amount of waste was recovered (not only with material recycling). Environmental results were strongly affected by the recycling processes and the energy production, with a little contribution from the energy requirement. The impacts achieved by the MBT process were, on average, 14% of the total one. The main condition for a suitable MBT process is a combination of materials recovery for the production of new raw materials, avoiding disposal in landfill, and refuse-derived fuel production for energy recovery. This work can be of help to operators and planners when they are asked to define MBT schemes.
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