Spatial Modeling of Metals Emissions and Associated Energy and Toxicity Impacts

EPA Grant Number: FP916949
Title: Spatial Modeling of Metals Emissions and Associated Energy and Toxicity Impacts
Investigators: Eckelman, Matthew J.
Institution: Yale University
EPA Project Officer: Jones, Brandon
Project Period: September 1, 2008 through August 31, 2010
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2008) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships


Detailed mapping of various metal emissions from waste management, the energy use associated with the partial recovery and reprocessing from various waste streams, and the associated toxicity burden of the metal that is lost to the environment. This work is essentially a combination of spatial material flow models with life-cycle inventory data. The primary goal is to quantify the flows of technologically important metals on a spatial basis, coupled with measures of their environmental impact. This research will be useful for addressing a variety of environmental questions regarding metals, such as:

  • Where should we focus recycling efforts to maximize material recovery while minimizing energy use?
  • What are the carbon implications of recycling different metals using various technologies?
  • How do metal use, loss, and recovery differ among world regions?


There are two spatial scales of analysis: for the data-rich countries of Japan and the United States, metal flows will be disaggregated by municipality/county. At the global level, metal flows in waste management will be mapped on a 1° x 1° grid. A case study for the municipality of Bangalore, India, will be carried out on a finer scale. This work will cover a wide scope of mapping metal in waste management, primarily in the areas of spatial precision, process disaggregation, and the integration of energy and toxicity data. The work will focus on the base metals of Al, Cu, Fe, Pb, and Zn, as well as the trace metals Ag, Cd, Cr, and Ni. The choice of these metals reflects earlier work in Japan and by my research group and reflects a mix of technologically vital, toxic, and rare materials. All mapping will be carried out for a base year circa in the early 2000s using a combination of trade and national statistics, spatial models, and field data.

Expected Results:

The result of this research will be a comprehensive set of spatial maps of metal emissions to air and to land, with appended data on potential carbon and toxicity impacts. These maps of metal emissions from waste management will represent a significant portion of all anthropogenic emissions to the environment. The air emissions maps will be combined with layers that locate and quantify emissions from other major point sources of metal emissions, such as smelters, cement factories, and power plants. The resulting maps will constitute a spatial inventory of atmospheric emissions for these nine metals.

Supplemental Keywords:

material flow analysis (MFA), metal toxicity, metal recovery, energy analysis, greenhouse gas emissions, life cycle assessment (LCA), spatial mapping, waste management, industrial ecology,