Just Salad was interested in a life cycle assessment (LCA) to compare the environmental
impacts of their Reusable Bowl Program (MyBowl) as compared to a disposable fiber bowl. NYSP2I performed an ISO 14040/44 compliant comparative assertion LCA of the MyBowl Program and a comparable disposable fiber bowl.
Aleisa, E., & Heijungs, R. (2022). “Leveraging Life Cycle Assessment to Better Promote the Circular Economy: A First Step Using the Concept of Opportunity Cost.” Sustainability 14(6), 3451. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063451
Abstract: In economics, opportunity cost is defined as the benefit foregone by choosing another course of action. Considering opportunity costs enables the improved handling of trade-offs to better support strategic decision-making. We introduce the concept of opportunity cost into life cycle assessment (LCA). In our framework, opportunity cost extends the system expansion paradigm to support better alignment with a circular economy (CE). Opportunity cost thinking is considered to be most useful for the efficient allocation of scarce economic capital for the creation of economic value. In the environmental domain, we use such thinking to account for the implications of ‘wasting waste’. In this paper, we consider a case of treated wastewater sludge being used as a source of nutrients as a vehicle to study the points at which LCA can support a CE. Our conclusions, however, have wider repercussions because there are many more situations in which product systems are analytically demarcated from the web of connections in which they are embedded.
Huber, E., Bach, V., Holzapfel, P., Blizniukova, D., & Finkbeiner, M. (2022). “An Approach to Determine Missing Life Cycle Inventory Data for Chemicals (RREM).” Sustainability 14(6), 3161. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063161
Abstract: Chemicals impact the environment. However, life cycle assessments (LCA) of products containing chemicals are often not possible due to a lack of available datasets. Existing methodologies to address this problem have several shortcomings. Therefore, a new approach to model chemicals is introduced to fill dataset gaps in inventory databases. Further data for 60 chemicals are provided. The approach consists of four steps: (i) general research on the chemical and the synthesis processes, (ii) setting up the reaction equations, (iii) researching the required thermal energy, and (iv) modeling of the dataset (RREM). Depending on the obtained data, calculations are carried out or assumptions are applied. The environmental impact of the chemicals is modeled in the LCA software linking to existing datasets. A case study of the chemical octocrylene illustrates the application of RREM. An overview is given of the environmental profile of 60 chemicals modeled based on RREM. The validity of the assumptions and their influences on the results are examined by a sensitivity analysis. By modeling chemicals with the RREM approach, previously unknown environmental impacts of chemicals and products containing them can be determined.
Read the full story at Treehugger.
Since the current electric vehicle (EV) boom started, there have been arguments about how much cleaner EVs are in comparison to internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEV). The claims are, “Making the batteries is dirty!” or, “The electricity is made from burning coal!” This Treehugger has argued many times that if you account for the embodied carbon—or the upfront carbon emissions released from making the materials and building the vehicle—they still have a significant carbon footprint.
Now, a new study from the Yale School of the Environment published in Nature Communications looks at all the data, the full life cycle of EVs, and finds EVs have significantly lower life cycle carbon than ICEV—far lower than previously thought.
Read the full story at GreenBiz.
Potential chemical impacts during the use phase are important considerations to include in material decisions, and these impacts must be considered in weighing the true cost of a product. As the safer materials movement matures, we must evolve to include a more comprehensive and just consideration of chemical impacts and the true cost of materials. This means considering impacts throughout the full life cycle of a product including extraction/refining, chemical manufacturing, product manufacturing and end of life. The bottom line is that some products can be sold cheaply because someone else is carrying the burden of the true cost.
Read the full story at Food Navigator.
Berkeley-based startup Perfect Day has underscored its sustainability credentials with the release of an expanded lifecycle assessment suggesting its ‘non-animal’ whey protein – produced by microbes, not cows – has a dramatically lower environmental footprint than animal-derived whey protein.
Every year in America, women spend at least US$2.8 billion on sanitary pads and tampons that can take hundreds of years to decompose. Is there a more economical and environmentally friendly way? To find out, we asked Susan Powers, a professor of sustainable environmental systems at Clarkson University about her work comparing the environmental impact of tampons, sanitary pads and menstrual cups.
What is a menstrual cup?
A menstrual cup is a type of reusable feminine hygiene product. It’s a small, flexible bell-shaped cup made of rubber or silicone that a woman inserts into her vagina to catch and collect menstrual fluid. It can be used for up to 12 hours, after which it is removed to dispose of the fluid and cleaned. The cup is rinsed with hot water and soap between each insertion and sterilized in boiling water at least once per period. A cup can last up to 10 years.
Although menstrual cups have been around for decades, they historically have been less popular than pads or tampons.
Are menstrual cups growing in popularity?
Yes, their popularity is growing as women, as well as men, become more comfortable dealing with and discussing menstruation. They have been a topic in news media ranging from Teen Vogue to NPR. Another part of their growing popularity stems from the general public’s concern about solid waste associated with any disposable product, including disposable pads and tampons.
You have been researching the life cycle of different feminine hygiene products. What is a life cycle assessment and what have your studies shown?
A life cycle assessment provides a broad accounting and evaluation of all of the materials, energy and processes associated with the raw materials in a product, including their extraction, manufacture, use and disposal. Impacts considered include climate change, natural resource depletion, human toxicity and ecotoxicity, among others.
I have worked for several years on a range of these assessments for consumer products and energy and agricultural systems. When Clarkson Honors Program student Amy Hait approached me about her idea of completing a life cycle assessment on feminine hygiene products, I was intrigued and happy to work closely with her to complete the study and publish the results in the journal Resources, Conservation & Recycling.
We compared three products: a rayon-based tampon with a plastic applicator, a maxipad with a cellulose and polyethylene absorbent core and a menstrual cup made of silicone.
The assessment also included packaging materials and the processes to make and transport these materials. In order to make a fair comparison among products, we looked at the number of products used by an average woman in one year. Based on published average values, that would be 240 tampons or maxipads. A menstrual cup has a 10-year lifespan, so its use for one year is the equivalent of one-tenth of the overall manufacturing and disposal impact.
Our assessment included eight different categories to evaluate the overall environmental impact. These include measuring the impacts on the environment and human health.
The life cycle impact assessment provides quantitative scores for the impacts of each of these individually. We also used normalization factors for the United States to enable us to come up with a total impact score. Higher scores reflect greater overall impacts.
Is using a menstrual cup more environmentally sustainable?
The results of the life cycle assessment clearly showed that the reusable menstrual cup was by far the best based on all environmental metrics. Based on the total impact score, the maxipad we considered in our study had the highest score, indicating higher impacts. The tampon had a 40% lower score and the menstrual cup 99.6% lower. The key factor for the high score for the maxipad was its greater weight and the manufacture of the raw materials to make it.
Most people choose a reusable product because they believe it won’t add waste to landfills. But our study shows that most environmental benefits are from the reduced need to prepare all of the raw materials and manufacture the product.
Taking the tampon as an example, the extraction and preparation of the raw materials used to make it contributed over 80% of the total impact. Disposal, which people often pay more attention to, really contributes substantially only to water pollution, which is a very minor component of the overall impact.
The life cycle assessment also identifies sometimes surprising sources of environmental and health impacts, including dioxins from bleaching wood pulp for pads, zinc from rayon production for tampons and chromium emissions from fossil fuel energy sources. By not having to produce more single-use products, we can avoid emitting many of these pollutants.
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As with any other consumer goods, the impacts associated with the manufacture and disposal of products are greatly reduced the more times you reuse anything. Using a reuseable cup for even just one month instead of the average 20 pads or tampons was still an environmentally preferable approach.
What is done to encourage the use of a more sustainable feminine hygiene product?
The taboo nature of talking about menstruation is changing with young women, at least in the United States. Women at Clarkson University, for example, worked with a cup manufacturer to provide a very public giveaway program to distribute free cups to over 100 college students. That would never have happened when I was a student decades ago. Many health-related web sites like WebMD and Healthline provide relevant and reliable information on the proper use and care of menstrual cups, which should help to reduce concerns over their use and encourage more women to try them.
Read the full story from Argonne National Laboratory.
A groundbreaking collaboration with one of the world’s largest producers of lithium will yield critical insights into the lithium production process and how it relates to environmental sustainability.
Read the full story at BIM Today.
Balfour Beatty, Innovate UK, Leeds Beckett University, Hertfordshire University and White Frog Publishing has created a carbon calculation tool for the construction and infrastructure industry
Currently in its beta testing phase, the AutoBIM Carbon Calculator automatically links BIM data to embodied carbon data from the Inventory of Carbon and Energy (ICE) database.
In addition, the carbon calculation tool also allows users to input information from environmental product declarations sheets; verified and registered documents that provide transparent and comparable data about the environmental impact throughout the lifecycle of a product or material.
The platform will support teams during the design phase of a project to compare products and materials, provide alternative solutions and ultimately help those involved make informed, low carbon decisions.
Read the full story from U.S. EPA.
EPA, in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), developed a new tool to address the need for current, regionally specific, and consumer-oriented data for life cycle assessment of electricity. The new ElectricityLCI tool creates electricity life cycle models from the best available public data on generation, emissions, and resources used from electricity production, electricity distribution, and supply chain requirements such as extraction and production.