Topic 1 Application of LCA in CE

LCA is one of the most frequently applied methodologies for assessing circularity and is aligned with the Circular Economy’s focus on the environmental dimension.

ensures Circular Economy business mobilisation with proven benefits for the environment (and society)

CE – a conceptual way of considering the impact of resource consumption

creating value for society and the economy while reducing the impact on the environment by redefining the concept of end-of-life products through reduction, reuse and recycling programs [or 9R programs]

LCA – a scientific methodology for quantifying and assessing the environmental impact of any process or product

recognised as one of the most complete assessment methods

Combination of CE principles and LCA robustness

can have the potential to provide a holistic approach that could strengthen available CE alternatives and result in a deeper analysis and better understanding of economic, social and environmental sustainability

Complementing CE with LCA

as metrics (in CE evaluation): to scientifically assess how products or processes effectively comply with CE and possible improvements in terms of the environment and economy

LCA – covers the following CE requirements:

  • reduction of intake and use of natural resources
  • increase renewable and recyclable resources
  • reduction of emissions
  • reduction of losses of valuable materials

(Haupt and Hellweg, 2019)

LCA can provide direct assessment for all but the second dimension

Linking LCA to the wider CE

as an iterative process:

  • to improve circularity in real-life scenarios
  • to choose the most suitable strategy for any hypothetical product or process (macro, micro or regional level) – analysing through LCA the advantages and disadvantages of CE
  • to evaluate the success of the CE strategy since the closed loop system is not always a desirable method from an environmental point of view

Limitations and weaknesses of LCA with respect to CE assessment

to avoid them

Combining LCA with other methods currently used to model and quantify CE can be an excellent way to gain more insights into identifying potential environmental trade-offs of improving circularity and/or how to effectively move from a linear to a Circular Economy.

Video: Full Life Cycle Thinking

Full Life Cycle Thinking and Circular economy – LCA in practice

Source: Plastics Europe