Type: Exercise: Product Life Cycle – stages with quick LCA mapping
The exercise goal is to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the entire product life cycle, perform a quick LCA mapping that provides a baseline perspective and considers life cycle impacts, and acquire a set of useful new insights that lead to the practice of circular and sustainable design.
This part of the practical session allows further refining of the life cycle thinking skills of the student.
Start by defining what you will explore, a product or material.
Step 1: Identify all the processes (different activities that occur across the main life cycle stages)
Step 2: Define the scope of your exploration (boundaries) and functional units
Step 3: List your inventory
Step 4: Consider the impacts
Step 5: Interpret results
For further information, please refer to the attached practicum with a detailed description of the exercise and accompanying material, which is a companion supplement to Module 6.
Purpose: to point out the practical application of LCA and help participants to understand its use in practice.
Question to start the discussion: To wrap or to not wrap cucumbers?
Lodestars to help keep the discussion going: Due to increasing public pressure, there is a trend to remove plastic packaging from fresh fruit/vegetables to reduce environmental impact along supply chains. On the other hand, plastic packaging also has an important protective function, similar to fruit/vegetable skins. So, removing plastic wrap around cucumbers results in less packaging impact but significantly increases downstream food waste.
Further steps to conclude the discussion: The LCA study avoids ‘burden shifting’ – solving an issue in one area of environmental impact while creating a problem in another.
Have participants research on the Internet.
At a glance at the LCA findings:
Let’s take an example of investigations in the form of a Life Cycle Assessment Study for cucumbers transported from Spain and sold in Switzerland. They found:
So, they found that plastic packaging protects the environment more by keeping more cucumbers from spoilage than the additional use of plastic harms the environment; therefore, it makes sense to use it from an environmental perspective.
Suggestions for further research:
 To Wrap Or to Not Wrap Cucumbers? – Investigations in the form of a Life Cycle Assessment Study
Shrivastava, C., Crenna, E., Schudel, S., Shoji, K., Onwude, D., Roland Hischier, R. & Defraeye, T. (30 June 2022). To Wrap Or to Not Wrap Cucumbers? Front. Sustain. Food Syst., Sec. Sustainable Food Processing. https://doi.org/10.3389/fsufs.2022.750199
 Trickling the food waste challenge with science (21 May 2020); an article by Elisabeth Skoda, published on www.packagingeurope.com
 Making the Case for Plastics Packaging (23 May 2018); an article by Gary Buchalter, published on www.packagingeurope.com
 How does BrimaPack contribute to the environmentally friendly packaging of vegetables?; article published on www.brimapack.com
VIDEO: Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of Various Food Trays – Cascades & CIRAIG –; (From perception to reality, the scientific approach) published by Cascades Inc
Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash