Session Title: Life Cycle Innovation and Eco-Design
Time: 3:15 – 3:45pm
Session Type: tba
With the decisions they take before a product is ever built, product developers and designers determine the environmental footprint of a product over its entire lifecycle. The “Development of a Transnational Learning Factory Ecodesign”, a part of the EcoDesign Circle project supported by the European INTERREG funds for the member states around the Baltic Sea, was initiated to demonstrate the themes and issues of ecological product design and the circular economy in a real-life development and production environment. The purpose was to make the effects of design decisions on the entire lifecycle of a product immediately visible. We will present the development process and the concept of the Ecodesign Learning Factory, comprising of the target group, purpose, process, setting, didactics and evaluation of the learning success. The concept and contents of the Learning Factory Ecodesign were developed in three steps: Capturing the current situation (current demand and available offerings) with e.g. stakeholder interviews in the nations bordering the Baltic Sea, developing the concept, and conducting pilots of the Learning Factory in Germany and around the Baltic Sea. The mission of the Learning Factory Ecodesign is to help practitioners and teachers in the fields of design, engineering, and business development appreciate how to design circular systems. The didactical concept is based on teaching theoretical background on eco-design and putting the insights into practice by exercising an eco-design sprint. The process combines creative methods of design thinking with the more analytical approaches common in eco-design. The Ecodesign Learning Factory was already executed and iterated over 15 times in 5 countries and reached more than 300 participants.
The Interreg FWVL TEXACOV project aims at tackling human health effects of indoor exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde by developing solutions for in situ indoor air depollution, without external power supply. The technical solution being developed for this purpose relies on the use of doped titanium dioxide particles incorporated onto furnishing fabric. These doped titanium dioxide particles have a photocatalytic effect under visible light that enables converting VOCs into carbon dioxide and water.
It is one of the aims of the project to use Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tools to help monitoring the innovation process. Since the beginning of the project, LCA has been used to evaluate the expected benefit of the innovation in terms of human health, due to reduction of indoor exposure of harmful pollutants and to model in parallel the implementation of the solution (fabric production, active particles production and padding functionalization process, use phase…). This approach enables to compare the benefits – avoided impacts – and the adverse effects – additional impacts – induced by the proposed solution.
The Life Cycle Inventory of a polyester curtain functionalized by doped titanium dioxide particles was modelled, encompassing raw materials, production steps, distribution, use phase and end-of-life. Several scenarios were tested for the use phase thanks to parameterization of the model in terms of ventilation and conversion efficiency for a limited list of VOCs. The risk and consequences of human exposure to nanoparticles emissions during production or use phase was also considered. For human health impact assessment, a method including specific characterization factors for indoor exposure to pollutants was used.
So far, all results showed satisfactory trends, with the confirmation of a significant benefit in terms of human health and adverse induced impacts that appear to be negligible in comparison. Some environmental hotspots were however identified in the production of the solution, thus evidencing leads for relevant impact optimization.
 – ROSENBAUM Ralph K., MEIJER Arjen, DEMOU Evangelia, et al. Indoor air pollutant exposure for life cycle assessment: regional health impact factors for households. Environmental science & technology, 2015, vol. 49, no 21, p. 12823-12831.
 VAN DER VELDEN Natasha M., PATEL Martin K., VOGTLÄNDER Joost G., LCA benchmarking study on textiles made of cotton, polyester, nylon, acryl, or elastane, Int. J. Life Cycle Assess., 2014, vol. 19, 331-356.
 TSANG Michael P., SONNEMANN Guido W., et al. Modeling human health characterization factors for indoor nanomaterial emissions in life cycle assessment: a case-study of titanium dioxide, Environmental Science: Nano, vol. 4, no 8, 1705-1721
Compared to other materials, plastic has registered a strong acceleration in production and consumption during the last years. The waste management infrastructure is not adequate to receive and treat the current amount of plastic waste generated in Europe so as to be still widely underperforming. Plastic_based materials are still a pervasive presence in the environment, with negative consequences on marine ecosystem and human health. The recycling is still challenging due to the growing complexity of product design, the so-called overpackaging, the insufficient and inadequate recycling infrastructure, the weak market of recycled plastics and the high cost of waste treatment and disposal. Circular economy (CE) plays a primary role in fostering the rethinking of plastics towards a more sustainable system, going well beyond resource efficiency and waste recycling. CE models promote not only the circularity of materials, but also the reduction of materials flow. The Circular economy package and the European Strategy for plastics in a circular economy include a very ambitious programme to rethink the entire plastic value chain. The mission of the Commission is to highlight the intrinsic value of materials along the value chain and in further cycles. As regards packaging, all plastic packaging will have to be 100% recyclable (or reusable) and 55% recycled by 2030. Regions are consequently called upon to set up a robust plan able to fit the European objectives. It takes on greater importance in Emilia Romagna where the Packaging valley is located. This work has set the basis and the instruments to establish the so-called Circularity Strategy with the aim to turn additional 92.000t of plastic waste into profitable value. System innovation, life cycle thinking and participative backcasting method have allowed to deeply analyse the current system, orientate the problem and explore sustainable solutions through a broad stakeholder participation. System thinking requires longitudinal and transversal observations. It follows that the Multi Level Perspective analysis have included social, economic, environmental and technical-technological issues.
Crippa, M., De Wilde, B., Koopmans, R., Leyssens, J., Muncke, J., Ritschkoff A-C., Van Doorsselaer, K., Velis, C. & Wagner, M. A (2019). Circular economy for plastics – Insights from research and innovation to inform policy and funding decisions, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium
Edquist, C. (2001). The Systems of Innovation Approach and Innovation Policy: An account of the state of the art. DRUID Conference, Aalborg
Foschi, E., Bonoli. A. (2019). The Commitment of Packaging Industry in the Framework of the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. Administrative Science Journal. doi:10.3390/admsci9010018
Jambeck, J.R., Geyer, R., Wilcox, C., Siegler, T.R., Perryman, M., Andrady, A., Narayan, R., and Law, K.L. (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science, 347, 768-771.
Quist, J. (2007). Backcasting for a sustainable future: the impact after 10 years. Analysis.
LCA has always been the domain of experts. That has led to very valuable insights in the impacts of entire value chains. That knowledge is increasingly recognized by professionals from other fields. But how can we leverage that profound expertise from these LCA Experts? As we’re with a few thousand experts and billions of products we have to find a way to scale up the availability and use of Life Cycle Information. Building on the insights shared at the LCM Conference examples of how this can be done in practice will be shared.
A key aspect is that insights have to be actionable. Insights that people cannot act upon are not relevant. Providing people with these facts in a relevant way will empower people to take action. There is a lot of energy and drive around sustainability and people are motivated to contribute to this shared purpose. Having these insights allows them to move from gut-feeling to fact-based decision making and action. In this presentation examples of how insights can be made actionable for designers, logistics, purchasers and packaging will be presented.
Another crucial element is to move fast. That requires that these insights are based on the same underlying model, so the most important and time-consuming work does not have to be done again and again. Instead of making a report available, you can make the results available through modules that allow users to compare, monitor and report on the results by changing the variables that are relevant for them. These modules are set up by the expert that also builds the underlying model to make sure the results are robust and trustworthy. Use cases will be presented on how one model is used by many users and for many different purposes.
Grow as you go
Of course, there’s always the challenge of making it as advanced as possible. Over the past years we have learnt to keep it simple at the start and focus on the most material aspects. This allows you to learn by doing. That will bring up new questions that can be embedded in the model and thus making the model and solution more advanced instead of overwhelming people with too many choices from the start. Keeping it simple at the start will actually speed up the (learning) process later on. We will share our experiences from projects where we applied this for environmental performance assessment in case of tenders, product portfolios, design and reporting. Not for one product or company, but from hundreds to thousands of products and users.
Key take out
The key take out of this session will be how an individual expert can leverage and unlock the value of her or his work by digitizing the outcome and make it available to a much broader audience.