Pihkola, Hanna; Pajula, Tiina; Järnefelt, Vafa; García Uriarte, Ainara; Bianchi, Marco; Recio Paule, Raquel; Räty, Tarmo; vom Berg, Christopher; Kähler, Ferdinand
The aim of this paper is to provide a critical understanding of the potential environmental, economic and social impacts and benefits related to the deployment of circularity measures in the manufacturing of industrial wood-based products. The analysis is based on five case studies ranging from innovative wooden construction elements to furniture and recycled wood products. Each case includes a circular-oriented innovation having potential for improving resource efficiency in the wood value chain. These include innovations that aim at extending the product life cycle, improving re-use, or using recycled wood raw materials and side products (such as saw dust) as part of new products. A life cycle sustainability assessment (consisting of an environmental LCA, a life cycle costing and a social life cycle assessment) was conducted for each case study. Our findings illustrate some trade-offs between the assessed sustainability domains and life cycle phases. Recycled wood as a raw material has generally low environmental and social burdens but economic feasibility is clearly challenged if wood is collected separately. However, if wood is collected from side streams or reused, benefits in all achieved sustainability domains may be achieved. Thus, product designs supporting flexible reuse or changes in assembly seem favorable from life cycle perspective. The results from the case studies provide novel information that could support decision-making in an industrial context. The usefulness of the produced sustainability information from the perspective of the manufacturing companies operating within the wood value chain was assessed, based on feedback collected from the case companies. Finally, the results also reveal higher-level systemic barriers that the policymakers should address in order to permit a full deployment of circular configurations in the wood-based supply chains. The study was conducted as part of the European project WoodCircus.