Photo by Karen Laårk Boshoff from Pexels

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.

Short Description:

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.

Type: Discussion

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:

  • if the use of plastic film reduces cucumber losses in the retail trade by as little as 1.1%, its use already has a net environmental benefit
  • the use of plastic wrapping reduces cucumber losses in retail points by an estimated 4.8%
  • the environmental benefit of reducing food waste due to plastic wrapping the cucumbers is 4.9 times greater than the negative environmental impact due to the packaging itself

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:

[1] 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.

[2] Trickling the food waste challenge with science (21 May 2020); an article by Elisabeth Skoda, published on

[3] Making the Case for Plastics Packaging (23 May 2018); an article by Gary Buchalter, published on

[4] How does BrimaPack contribute to the environmentally friendly packaging of vegetables?; article published on

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

Lesson Content