Hybridised sustainability metrics for use in life cycle assessment of bio-based products: resource efficiency and circularity
The development, implementation and social acceptance of resource efficient, circular, bio-based economies require critical understanding of the whole supply chain from feedstock to end-use. Trust, transparency and traceability will be paramount. Though life cycle assessment (LCA) is a universally chosen approach to fulfil this purpose, the nature of data required and the depth of analysis lead to complex interpretations of the findings. Herein, a new set of hybridised, first-line sustainability indicators, drawn from the principles of green chemistry and resource (material and energy) circularity, are reported. These flexible, potentially stand-alone metrics are demonstrated via application to an exemplary comparative LCA, incorporating the hybridised indicators including hazardous chemical use, waste generated, resource circularity and energy efficiency, from the “gate-to-gate” stages for the bio-based case studies and their petro-derived commercial counterparts. These metrics were observed to quantify critical new information relevant to our transition to a circular economy, bridging significant gaps in contemporary environmental impact assessment methodologies. Appropriate additional evaluations that examine the performance of metrics, when the embedded resource efficiency and circularity strategies are omitted, have also been undertaken and reported. The data drawn from employing these methods are crucial to inform and encourage operational optimisation, transparency in sustainability reporting and practices to a significant number of value-chain actors including manufacturers, policy makers and consumers.
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On 11th September 2019, the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence (GCCE) at the University of York held a one-day symposium titled “Sustainability Metrics: Tracking, Measuring and Reporting Responsible Innovation”. This was the second “Sustainability Metrics” symposium held at the GCCE as part of the European Union’s Horizon 2020-funded STAR-ProBio research project.
The aim of the symposium was to give researchers the opportunity to discuss their use of green chemistry metrics and other toolkits, to assess the sustainability of their research, and to encourage discussions and future collaborations between academic and industrial researchers. A total of 25 delegates, from academia and industry across the UK and Europe, attended the event with speakers from the University of Sheffield, University of York, Drax, Croda, CO2Chem, OWS Limited, Pré Sustainability and Novamont in attendance.
The symposium included oral presentations from academic and industrial researchers, including Dr Francesco Razza and Dr Kadambari Lokesh from the STAR-ProBio project.
On the 5th of September, our colleagues Sergio Ugarte, Deniz Koca, Matthias Grill, Mathilde Crepy, Beike Sumfleth and Enrico Balugani have successfully conducted in Göteborg the STAR-ProBio Summer School “Sustainability certification and market uptake of bio-based products. Focus on the construction sector” as part of the EIT Climate-KIC Summer School on wood construction in climate change mitigation https://learning.climate-kic.org/en/courses/phd-catapult/wood-construction-in-climate-change-mitigation#introduction.
They have trained 20 PhD students from different EU Universities in the importance and developments of standards and certification schemes for assessing the sustainability of bio-based products used in the construction industry.
The updated version of the Italian bioeconomy strategy has just been published!
Among other things, the document highlights the importance of promoting the use of sustainability standards, certification schemes and labels to support the bio-based market and the creation of a ‘level playing field’ between bio-based products and conventional products.
In this regard, the strategy explicitly refers to STAR-ProBio and the work it is conducting. A great result for our project!
Click here to download the updated version of the document.
Stefan Majer, Simone Wurster, David Moosmann, Luana Ladu, Beike Sumfleth and Daniela Thrän
The concept of the bio-based economy has gained increasing attention and importance in recent years. It is seen as a chance to reduce the dependency on fossil resources while securing a sustainable supply of energy, water, and raw materials, and furthermore preserving soils, climate and the environment. The intended transformation is characterized by economic, environmental and social challenges and opportunities, and it is understood as a social transition process towards a sustainable, bio-based and nature-oriented economy. This process requires general mechanisms to establish and monitor safeguards for a sustainable development of the bio-based economy on a national and EU level. Sustainability certification and standardisation of bio-based products can help to manage biogenic resources and their derived products in a sustainable manner. In this paper, we have analysed the current status of sustainability certification and standardisation in the bio-based economy by conducting comprehensive desktop research, which was complemented by a series of expert interviews. The analysis revealed an impressive amount of existing certification frameworks, criteria, indicators and applicable standards. However, relevant gaps relating to existing criteria sets, the practical implementation of criteria in certification processes, the legislative framework, end-of-life processes, as well as necessary standardisation activities, were identified which require further research and development to improve sustainability certification and standardisation for a growing bio-based economy.
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The Sustainability special issue on “Sustainability Transition Towards a Bio-Based Economy: New Technologies, New Products, New Policies” has now been published as a volume available at this link: https://www.mdpi.com/books/pdfview/book/1025
The book is open access and can be freely downloaded in pdf format!
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