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By the end of the 20th century, concerns about the environmental impact of the ever-increasing global population were already reaching worrying proportions. In the first 20 years of the 21st century, these concerns have only increased with the threat of climate change, loss of habitats and biodiversity, and water scarcity. Other existing and persistent threats include those to our terrestrial, marine and aerial environments, as the result of the specific impacts we see from our increased and unsustainable demand on natural resources and ecosystems, and our management of emissions and waste. Re-assessing the way in which we have been utilising resources, understanding the impacts of increased consumerism, and poor management of goods and materials after use, are critical in helping us to re-dress the balance and reduce our impacts for future generations. It is indeed worrying, given the body of evidence that already exists, that we may already be past the tipping point for some of the environmental impacts.

Circular Economy thinking is a conceptual way of managing resources in non-linear, more efficient manner, and there is a need to better understand how the re-use, re-cycling and re-purpose model will impact on the techno- and biospheres proposed in the Circular Economy model. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been in development as a methodology since the late 1960s, to quantify environmental impacts. As the LCA methodology matures, it brings into existence an increasing body of data and methodological approaches across several impactful activities, materials and products. However, this provides a daunting array of approaches to the LCA methodology and despite the development of well-set rules, commencing an LCA study can present an enormous challenge to newcomers and established practitioners alike.

The editors of this book, Dr Aiduan Borrion (University College London), Dr Mairi J. Black (University of Surrey/University College London) and Dr Onesmus Mwabonje (Imperial College London), have worked collaboratively for a number of years and believe that LCA is better informed by such collaboration and stakeholder engagement, to verify data, rationalise the approaches taken and methodologies employed in a transparent manner. In fact, LCA requires that we draw on and share the expertise and knowledge of a number of disciplines and perspectives. This book has brought together a number of international, multidisciplinary experts in LCA, to address a range of products, processes and services, with the aim of relating the use of LCA as a metric for Circular Economy. The diligent and insightful chapters provided by all the contributors to this book are key to providing a practical view on approaches taken in LCA. It is hoped that the book will provide a good reference point and offer guidance in addressing some of the key industries that are so impactful to the natural environment. The editors of the book would like to thank all the chapter authors and contributors for their expert insights.

At the time of writing this preface, the world as we know it has faced a new threat that has impacted populations across the globe. The Covid-19 pandemic has necessitated significant shifts in societal structures and behaviours, as a means of managing the impacts on the human population, but still tragic losses of life have already occurred. We don't know what the future will hold and, for many, the disruptive force of the pandemic has led us to – and will necessitate – new systems of management in healthcare; as well as in the workplace and in transport systems, food and industrial resources supply chains, and in the social activities we may all have taken for granted. To this end, it is hoped that the approaches taken to a global recovery will take a ‘grow back better’ approach, which will genuinely allow us to address the environmental concerns of 2020, both pre- and post-pandemic.

Aiduan Borrion, Mairi J. Black and Onesmus Mwabonje

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