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Residual biomass as resource – Life-cycle environmental impact of wastes in circular resource systems

Olofsson, Johanna LU and Börjesson, Pål LU (2018) In Journal of Cleaner Production 196. p.997-1006
Abstract

Within an envisioned circular bio-based economy, a key component is the valorization of biomass wastes and residues into valuable products. If the commonly used method of life-cycle assessment (LCA) is applied to such products, an update and adaptation of LCA practice is needed regarding potentially outdated assumptions of residual resources as free from environmental impact. This paper therefore presents and discusses LCA approaches to evaluating residual biomass as resources, and implications of different approaches to LCA results and decision-making. Based on an analysis of 31 LCA studies of bio-based products, and on a model for recycling in LCA, we discuss alternatives to zero-burden assumptions for biomass residues. The studied... (More)

Within an envisioned circular bio-based economy, a key component is the valorization of biomass wastes and residues into valuable products. If the commonly used method of life-cycle assessment (LCA) is applied to such products, an update and adaptation of LCA practice is needed regarding potentially outdated assumptions of residual resources as free from environmental impact. This paper therefore presents and discusses LCA approaches to evaluating residual biomass as resources, and implications of different approaches to LCA results and decision-making. Based on an analysis of 31 LCA studies of bio-based products, and on a model for recycling in LCA, we discuss alternatives to zero-burden assumptions for biomass residues. The studied literature shows a variety of approaches to assessing the impacts of residues, including views of relevant characteristics and causality in primary production systems, and intended use and interpretation of LCA results. In general, acknowledging upstream impacts through a simple model of recycling and allocation entails that the environmental characteristics of primary production systems reflect on by-products and residues. We argue that LCA studies of residue valorization must recognize the potential value of residues by considering upstream impacts, and thereby avoid both misconceptions of residues as per default environmentally preferable resources, and unintentional support for high-impact primary production systems. Residues as resources require this adaptation in LCA practice in order to avoid misguided decisions for a low-impact, bio-based and circular economy.

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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Bioeconomy, By-product, Circular economy, LCA, Life-cycle assessment, Zero burden
in
Journal of Cleaner Production
volume
196
pages
10 pages
publisher
Elsevier
external identifiers
  • scopus:85048702645
ISSN
0959-6526
DOI
10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.06.115
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
64f311e6-902e-479c-8813-0ee481ce2320
date added to LUP
2018-06-27 15:50:21
date last changed
2019-03-19 03:56:45
@article{64f311e6-902e-479c-8813-0ee481ce2320,
  abstract     = {<p>Within an envisioned circular bio-based economy, a key component is the valorization of biomass wastes and residues into valuable products. If the commonly used method of life-cycle assessment (LCA) is applied to such products, an update and adaptation of LCA practice is needed regarding potentially outdated assumptions of residual resources as free from environmental impact. This paper therefore presents and discusses LCA approaches to evaluating residual biomass as resources, and implications of different approaches to LCA results and decision-making. Based on an analysis of 31 LCA studies of bio-based products, and on a model for recycling in LCA, we discuss alternatives to zero-burden assumptions for biomass residues. The studied literature shows a variety of approaches to assessing the impacts of residues, including views of relevant characteristics and causality in primary production systems, and intended use and interpretation of LCA results. In general, acknowledging upstream impacts through a simple model of recycling and allocation entails that the environmental characteristics of primary production systems reflect on by-products and residues. We argue that LCA studies of residue valorization must recognize the potential value of residues by considering upstream impacts, and thereby avoid both misconceptions of residues as per default environmentally preferable resources, and unintentional support for high-impact primary production systems. Residues as resources require this adaptation in LCA practice in order to avoid misguided decisions for a low-impact, bio-based and circular economy.</p>},
  author       = {Olofsson, Johanna and Börjesson, Pål},
  issn         = {0959-6526},
  keyword      = {Bioeconomy,By-product,Circular economy,LCA,Life-cycle assessment,Zero burden},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {09},
  pages        = {997--1006},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Journal of Cleaner Production},
  title        = {Residual biomass as resource – Life-cycle environmental impact of wastes in circular resource systems},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.06.115},
  volume       = {196},
  year         = {2018},
}