The Waste and Resources Assessment Tool for the Environment (WRATE) has been launched to answer questions such as the difference between burning 20,000 tonnes of household waste in a local power station as opposed to sending it 50 miles for composting.
It is the brainchild of the Environment Agency (EA) and will use life cycle assessment to identify and quantify all the emissions from managing the waste, looking at issues such as wheelie bins, the final recovery or disposal and transport methods.
EA head of waste Liz Parkes said: We have to divert millions of tonnes of waste from landfill over the next few years. While we need to reduce the amount of waste we create in the first place, we must also ensure that we manage the waste that we do produce in the most environmentally responsible way.
WRATE will help those managing household waste, particularly local authorities, by comparing the potential environmental impacts such as global warming, acid rain or the nitrification of our rivers and how these impacts can be altered by changing the way they manage the waste.
The system will allow managers to model how they want to deal with their waste by dragging and dropping colourful icons for software to calculate the environmental impacts.
It includes data for 32 types of containers, 25 forms of transport, 12 types of intermediate facilities such as transfer stations, 24 different recycling processes and 43 treatment and recovery options.
Scottish Environmental Protection Agency waste resources unit manager John Ferguson said: WRATE is a huge step forward for sustainable waste management. Its so easy to use and has the latest technologies.
Waste managers will be able to use WRATE to plan the next generation of waste management facilities knowing the full environmental impacts of their decisions.