Incineration has been regarded as a promising method to respond to municipal solid waste (MSW) challenges. However, its high cost and health impacts are the main barriers to the development of incineration. This study aims to investigate the cost-benefit of MSW incineration in 31 Chinese provinces to identify the regional disparity of incineration policy in China. Life cycle environmental impacts and costs were analyzed using the life cycle assessment software Gabi 8.0 and method CML-2001. Results show that MSW disposal costs, Global Warming Potential (GWP) and Eutrophication Potential (EP) will decline significantly with the increase in incineration rate for all Chinese provinces, while the environmental impacts of Human Toxicity Potential (HTP), Ozone Layer Depletion Potential (OLDP) and Terrestric Ecotoxicity Potential (TETP) increase the trend. Economically developed and populated provinces such as Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shandong have both a higher incineration volume and incineration potential. As for the cost-benefit analysis, developed provinces such as Guangdong, Chongqing, Shanghai and Tianjin exhibit the highest cost-benefit in toxic impacts of HTP, TETP and ODP. Northern provinces such as Jilin, Xinjiang, Heilongjiang and Hebei have the lowest cost-benefit in toxic impacts but have the highest cost-benefit in GWP and EP. Finally, policy remarks on incineration cost, priority provinces, integration of sorting and incineration are also discussed.
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