This paper presents research concerning the environmental analysis of the selective collection management of municipal solid waste. The main goal of this study is to quantify and to compare, by means of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the potential environmental impacts of three selective collection systems modelled on densely populated urban areas. These systems are: the mobile pneumatic, the multi-container and the door-to-door. Impact assessment method based on CML 2 baseline 2000 is applied to the different systems. The study separates and analyzes the collection systems in substages: two urban substages and one inter-city substage. At the urban level, the multi-container system has the least environmental impact of all systems. The mobile pneumatic system has greater environmental impacts in terms of global warming, fresh water aquatic ecotoxicity, terrestrial ecotoxicity, acidification and eutrophication. In this system, the pipes and the pneumatic transport have the greatest impacts. The door-to-door system has a greatest environmental impact in terms of abiotic depletion, ozone layer depletion and human toxicity. An overall evaluation of the three substages, with a sensitivity analysis, indicates that the mobile pneumatic system at an inter-city distance of 20 km shows the greatest environmental impacts and the greatest energy demand. Inter-city transport is key; the results show that from an inter-city distance of 11 km onwards, this becomes the substage which most contributes to global warming impact and energy demand, in all the systems. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.