End-of-Life Alternatives for Wind Turbine Blades: Sustainability Indices Based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Peter Deeney*, Angela Nagle, Fergal Gough, Heliosa Lemmertz, Emma Delaney, Jennifer McKinley, Conor Graham, Paul Leahy, Niall Dunphy, Gerald Mullally

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
392 Downloads (Pure)


The background to this research is that across the world there will be 200,000 tonnes of wind turbine blade waste to be disposed of each year from 2033. The purpose of the research is to compare the relative sustainability of alternative ways to deal with this waste, these being: landfill, incineration with heat recovery, co-processing in cement kilns, making furniture and bridge fabrication. The method is to use the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to select 11 metrics for sustainability. The use of the SDGs adds to the objectivity of this process overcoming one of the principal weaknesses of Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA). Quantitative information methods from Life Cycle Assessment, Geographic Information Science, census data and real options analysis of R&D, alongside qualitative information from Delphi studies and Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats analysis are combined in the assessment. Three MCDA methods are used, each calculates economic, social and environmental sustainability indices for the end-of-life alternatives which are then combined into integrated sustainability indices. A novel Delphi stopping condition based on consensus, consistency and convergence is used. The primary result is that bridge fabrication is the most sustainable alternative with furniture making in second place. Co-processing, incineration with heat recovery and landfill are progressively less sustainable alternatives. This result is robust to substantial changes in the selection of experts’ opinions, the weights for MCDA and the values of the metrics. These findings offer researchers and policymakers a robust decision making process, applicable to situations where choices are made on sustainability criteria.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105642
Number of pages14
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Early online date12 May 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 12 May 2021


  • Composite Recycling
  • Glass Fibre Reinforced Polymer (GFRP)
  • Delphi Study
  • Multiple Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA)
  • Geographical Information Science (GIS
  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Engineering


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