Transition Towards a Sustainable Biobased Economy
Chapter 3: Downstream Environmental Assessment
Published:26 Feb 2020
Ever-increasing demand for biobased products in the market and the prevalence of an instinctive perception of biobased products with 100% sustainability has led to a need for policy makers to identify ways of mapping the associated concerns, benefits and opportunities. The aim of this study is to propose and test the effectiveness of a sustainability assessment methodology that incorporates the principles of sustainable consumption and production (Sustainable Development Goal 12), resource efficiency and circular economy into a holistic life cycle assessment to enable a fairer comparison of biobased products and fossil-based products. A set of hybridised indicators were developed combining life cycle indicators with that of industrially-applied green chemistry resource efficiency metrics, also incorporating the principles of circular economy. The effectiveness of these methodologies was assessed via an exemplary comparative LCA of the biobased products and their fossil-based commercial equivalents, from manufacturing to ‘distribution to consumer’ phases. In addition to the conventional LCA-based impact indicators, hybridised indicators including waste factor, secondary resource efficiency and circularity were also applied. The methodologies provided a unique dimension to the sustainability evaluation of biobased products, also highlighting some of the “easy to interpret” impacts, particularly waste generation, material and energy efficiency of the product and process in question.