Enhancing resource efficiency by digitalization? Life cycle based assessment of the impacts of a circular economy strategy

Main Presenter: Tabea Hagedorn 

Co-Authors: Dr. Alice Lopes Malte Vogelgesang Prof. Dr. Liselotte Schebek

Session: Poster Session 2

Circular economy and resource efficiency are central strategies of the European Union (EU) for reaching “climate neutrality” by 2050. The Digital Political Agenda of the EU and of the German Federal Government also aims at using digital technologies towards a more sustainable economy. Today, high hopes exist that in all sectors digitalization will contribute substantially to the enhancement of resource efficiency. Some example of digital technologies are robots, artificial intelligence and the digital product passport. In the waste management sector, these technologies can improve the sorting of waste and also make information available via e.g. cloud to all stakeholders directly connected to a specific waste stream. In this way, missing information regarding waste composition would be easily available for recyclers, which would enable them to better select the most appropriated sorting technology to be used. Further, producers could get feedback how well their products can be recycled
and returned to the economy prior to their final disposal. Thus, the share of information along the value-chain improves not only the beginning but also the end-of-life phases. Besides the promising possibilities of digital technologies, it is still unclear how sustainable these are, considering energy and raw material demand, and which potential positive and negative environmental impacts are coupled with their application within the circular economy. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a common and well accepted assessment method for investigating resource consumption and environmental impacts of products or services. Here, we will present the methodological outline of the LCI modelling as well as first results from the ongoing research project ReCircE (Digital Lifecycle Record for the Circular Economy) to investigate the potential environmental impacts of a digital life cycle passport (DLCP) for a specific waste stream. The results will serve as an orientation for the DLCP application as
information carrier to other waste streams.

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