Environmental impact associated with activated carbon preparation from olive-waste cake via life cycle assessment

K. Hjaila, R. Baccar, M. Sarrà, C. M. Gasol, P. Blánquez

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The life cycle assessment (LCA) environmental tool was implemented to quantify the potential environmental impacts associated with the activated carbon (AC) production process from olive-waste cakes in Tunisia. On the basis of laboratory investigations for AC preparation, a flowchart was developed and the environmental impacts were determined. The LCA functional unit chosen was the production of 1kg of AC from by-product olive-waste cakes. The results showed that impregnation using H3PO4 presented the highest environmental impacts for the majority of the indicators tested: acidification potential (62%), eutrophication (96%), ozone depletion potential (44%), human toxicity (64%), fresh water aquatic ecotoxicity (90%) and terrestrial ecotoxicity (92%). One of the highest impacts was found to be the global warming potential (11.096kgCO2eq/kg AC), which was equally weighted between the steps involving impregnation, pyrolysis, and drying the washed AC. The cumulative energy demand of the AC production process from the by-product olive-waste cakes was 167.63MJ contributed by impregnation, pyrolysis, and drying the washed AC steps. The use of phosphoric acid and electricity in the AC production were the main factors responsible for the majority of the impacts. If certain modifications are incorporated into the AC production, such as implementing synthesis gas recovery and reusing it as an energy source and recovery of phosphoric acid after AC washing, additional savings could be realized, and environmental impacts could be minimized. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-247
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2013


  • Activated carbon
  • Environmental impacts
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Olive-waste cakes


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