TU.3.C || Operationalising Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment

Bachmann, Till M.; Hackenhaar, Isadora; Huysveld, Sophie; Horn, Rafael; Gehring, Florian; Dewulf, Jo; Charter, Martin

At least since the 1990ies, attempts exist in many parts of the world to establish more circular economies (CE). The aims are diverse and include less waste, independence from imports of critical or strategic materials, and reduced use of non-renewable virgin materials. However, each circular strategy does not necessarily mean less environmental impacts as can be quantified for example with the help of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Indeed, CE strategies need to be regarded as a means and not as an end (i.e., through actions for reducing environmental impacts due to resource extraction, land use and resource depletion, or mitigating supply risks). Therefore, it is important to inform sound decision-making. Based on a literature review of CE strategies and indicators within and outside the domain of life cycle studies, this research aims to investigate the way in which CE considerations can be integrated into a product-oriented Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) framework under development in the EU-funded ORIENTING project. Taking relevant studies cited in and citing two review articles published in 2019 (Moraga et al., doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2019.03.045, and Saidani et al., doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.10.014), complemented with relevant studies outside the scientific domain, and evaluating the methods and indicators against a comprehensive set of criteria, the most promising ways to integrate CE considerations into ORIENTING’s product-oriented LCSA were identified. Initial results show that three main approaches to integrate CE strategies into the LCSA exist: 1) adapting the functional unit (e.g. lifetime), 2) distinguishing life cycle stages according to relevant steps in a CE (e.g. regarding maintenance) and 3) dedicated indicators. The results of the review as well as potential ways to integrate CE strategies into the LCSA framework will be presented.