Session Chair

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Peter Fantke Lyngby, Denmark
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Session Info

Session Title: Life Cycle Innovation in the Chemical Sector

Date: 27.08.2020

Time: 3:45 – 4:15pm

Session Type: tba

Session Abstracts

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Peter Fantke Lyngby, Denmark
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Co-Author:

Ólafur Ögmundarson

Abstract

Introduction: Biochemicals are in many cases a suitable alternative to petrochemicals, in line with global policy targets to boost a green transition and build a viable bioeconomy. However, producing chemicals from bio-feedstocks does not automatically ensure their environmental sustainability or – in cases – even better sustainability performance than petrochemicals. To address this challenge, we need to understand the sustainability performance of biochemicals when compared to functionally equivalent petrochemicals, assess the environmental hotspots of different biochemicals over their entire life cycle, and identify relevant trade-offs between environmental and economic sustainability at an early stage of development.
Methods: Building on existing studies, we evaluated reported environmental sustainability performance for main building block biochemicals against the performance of functionally equivalent petrochemicals. Then, we developed a systematic framework for assessing the life cycle environmental impacts of lactic acid production systems using different bio-feedstock generations, to identify feedstock-specific impact hotspots. Finally, we combine indicators for environmental sustainability with techno-economic performance in a consistent framework to support overall optimization of biochemical production systems.
Results: Comparing environmental sustainability performance of biochemicals and functionally equivalent petrochemicals reveals that biochemicals can perform better or worse across various impact categories. Where biochemicals can show higher impacts than petrochemical equivalents are mainly land use impacts (feedstock production, end-of-life treatment), particulate matter formation (refining), and even global warming impacts (polymerization, end-of-life treatment) [1]. Comparing environmental performance of biochemical production systems for lactic acid shows that feedstock production and biorefinery processes dominate overall impacts, while each feedstock generation has its own impact hotspots, e.g. biomass drying dominating impact profiles when using macroalgae as feedstock [2]. Finally, combining environmental with techno-economic performance demonstrates that there are significant trade-offs; hence, an overall performance optimization requires the consideration of both aspects.
Conclusions: We recommend to systematically incorporate environmental sustainability performance for optimizing biochemical production systems, building on the broader set of impact categories and all life cycle stages. We further recommend to focus on the hotspots within each feedstock generation. Finally, we recommend to align environmental and economic performance to address relevant tradeoffs. This will help to overall optimizing biochemical production systems in support of boosting a viable and sustainable bioeconomy, and contributing to meeting local-to-global targets for sustainable development that are aligned with ecological capacities for chemical pollution [3].

References:

[1] Ögmundarson Ó, Herrgård MJ, Förster J, Hauschild MZ, Fantke P, 2020. Addressing environmental sustainability of biochemicals. Nat Sustain, in press
[2] Ögmundarson Ó, Sukumara S, Laurent A, Fantke P, 2020. Environmental hotspots of different lactic acid production systems. GCB Bioenergy 12:19-38
[3] Fantke P, Illner N, 2019. Goods that are good enough: Introducing an absolute sustainability perspective for managing chemicals in consumer products. Curr Opin Green Sustain Chem 15:91-97

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Randall Waymire @ rjwaymire
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Co-Authors

Neil Brown

Benjamin Coleman

Abstract

The Netherlands aims to reduce primary raw material consumption to 50% in 2030 and to achieve a fully circular economy (CE) in 2050. The construction industry is resource-intensive, being considered as the highest priority. However, being a novel concept, a lack of shared understanding and common languages can be found among scholars, which impedes the implementation of the CE in reality. Large quantities of questions among scholars are concerning the circularity measurement. It is widely agreed that the Material Circularity Indicator (MCI) developed by Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Granta Design (2015) is the most ambitious circularity framework and can be served as a good starting point (Linder et al., 2017). In this study, two limitations inherent in the MCI are focused in order to develop a standard circularity metric, aiming to help the construction companies estimate how advanced on their way from linear to circular. One of the limitations concern the unit (mass) used in the MCI, which implies the materials with larger quantities have a relatively higher value in a CE; however, the value scarcity of materials/products is not considered. The shortcoming of the mass unit is revised by complementing the economic value of materials, instead of focusing only on physical units. Furthermore, in the MCI, the quantities (weight) of a product will not change over time, which implies that the value embedded in the product also maintains the same throughout the whole life cycle. This assumption is not reliable when integrating the unit of economic value into the MCI; therefore, a new indicator “Residual Value (R)” is designed for the adjusted metric. Furthermore, in order to support an actual use, how to quantify the “R” is fundamental; hence, a residual value calculator is developed to support the circularity assessment. Overall, the differences between the adjusted metric and the MCI are the unit and the new indicator R. A case study approach is adopted to evaluate the effect of each adjustment (combined adjustment) compared with the MCI. The results show using mass unit causes calculation difficulties and inaccurate results, especially when light-weight (while valuable) materials are applied in the project. Furthermore, the results of with/without “R” are almost the same when the percentage of non-virgin feedstock and recoverable waste is low; therefore, it is recommended to consider the input of residual value when the circularity level is relatively high.

References:

Ellen Macarthur Foundation & Granta Design. (2015). Circularity Indicators An Approch to Measuring Circularity Retrieved from https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/insight/Circularity-Indicators_Project-Overview_May2015.pdf

Linder, M., Sarasini, S., & van Loon, P. (2017). A metric for quantifying product‐level circularity. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 21(3), 545-558.

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Peter Fantke Lyngby, Denmark
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Co-Authors

Nicolo Aurisano

Lei Huang

Olivier Jolliet

Abstract

Introduction: Numerous chemicals are used as additives in plastics, including toys, fulfilling certain functions, such as plasticizers, flame-retardants, or colorants. However, several additives may pose risks to children via various exposure pathways. Moreover, in recycled plastics supporting a circular economy, several additive residuals can end up in recyclates, leading to additional exposures [1]. The combination of harmful additives and residues constitute a challenge to be urgently addressed for implementing a circular economy for plastics [2]. Key is the identification of priority chemicals targeted for reduced use in virgin and recycled plastic toys.
Methods: We identify chemicals reported to occur in virgin and recycled plastic toys. For these chemicals, we combine concentrations in plastics with toy consumption data. We then estimate related cancer and non-cancer risks for children by adapting a high-throughput exposure framework combined with toxicity information [3, 4]. From raking the risks, we produce prioritization lists of chemicals in toys, determine the contribution of possible residues from previous uses, and compare our results with other lists.
Results: Children’s risks from exposure to chemicals in plastic toys are dominated by additives (mainly phthalate plasticizers and some brominated flame-retardants), with cancer and non-cancer risks exceeding acceptable levels for multiple chemicals. Risks from residues in recycled toys are substantially lower and often negligible. While some of our priority chemicals appear in other lists, we also identified additional priority chemicals that are not yet covered elsewhere and require further attention. For ensuring full coverage and reduce uncertainty, it is key to obtain high-quality and comprehensive data on chemical content in plastics and recyclates, and to ensure the applicability to other chemical classes, e.g. metals.
Conclusions: We recommend deriving maximum allowable concentrations for hazardous chemicals in toys, to ensure that both remaining cancer and non-cancer risks are below acceptable risk levels for children. This will enable producers to test whether a certain grade of recycled plastic is usable for toys manufacturing. Chemical ingredients, such as some plasticizers, whose effective content at which they fulfil their function is above these maximum allowable concentrations, should be avoided or possibly banned when also reported in other priority lists, or further scrutinized otherwise. Our approach can help identify priority chemicals also in other products (e.g. food contact and building materials) and should be applied to screen chemicals already in material design [5], to boost a viable circular economy for plastic toys.

References:

[1] Ionas AC, Dirtu AC, Anthonissen T, Neels H, Covaci A, 2014. Downsides of the recycling process: Harmful organic chemicals in children’s toys. Environ Int 65:54-62
[2] Fantke P, Illner N, 2019. Goods that are good enough: Introducing an absolute sustainability perspective for managing chemicals in consumer products. Curr Opin Green Sustain Chem 15:91-97
[3] Fantke P, Ernstoff AS, Huang L, Csiszar SA, Jolliet O, 2016. Coupled near-field and far-field exposure assessment framework for chemicals in consumer products. Environ Int 94:508-518
[4] Aurisano N, Huang L, Jolliet O, Mila i Canals L, Fantke P, 2020. Chemicals of concern in plastic toys. Environ Sci Technol (submitted)
[5] Fantke P, Weber R, Scheringer M, 2015. From incremental to fundamental substitution in chemical alternatives assessment. Sustain Chem Pharm 1:1-8

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Peter Fantke Lyngby, Denmark
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Co-Authors

Michael Overcash

Lei Huang

Olivier Jolliet

Abstract

Background: Life cycle assessment (LCA) aims at identifying optimal environmental performance of products and systems, while chemical alternatives assessment (CAA) aims at substituting harmful chemicals in products. Human exposure and toxicity are important components in both, yet they only focus on selected elements or sum up inconsistent metrics, which leaves relevant exposure-related trade-offs unaddressed, potentially leading to misleading decisions across product and chemical comparisons [1]. These trade-offs occur particularly between exposure to various chemicals during use of multiple consumer products, and exposure to environmental emissions along entire chemical and product life cycles. To close this gap, consumer exposure and emission-based exposures need to be consistently integrated and combined with toxicity impacts.
Methodology: Following latest recommendations from the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, we propose a quantitative, high-throughput framework, coupling near-field consumer exposures with emission-based far-field population exposures in a single mass-balance, and link exposures consistently to an adapted, consensus-based, probabilistic approach for characterizing toxicity [2]. Our framework uses the product intake fraction (PiF) metric as reference for comparing exposure pathways and populations on the basis of chemical mass in products [3], builds on and is fully compatible with the scientific consensus model USEtox (usetox.org), and incorporates latest WHO recommendations for non-linear human toxicity modelling under uncertainty [4]. It finally summarizes mechanistically-based results into easily interpretable comparative impact scores, expressed on a log-scale (like 1 to 10).
Results: Applying our framework in an LCA on rice production, we demonstrate that phthalate plasticizers found in rice packaging lead to consumer exposures that dominate overall life cycle toxicity impacts, being 2 orders of magnitude higher than cradle-to-gate population impacts. Applying the same framework to substitute for example the hazardous plasticizer DEHP, using in part the EGIP database to derive mass-balanced chemical supply chain emissions [5], yielded up to a factor 30 lower toxicity impacts for the non-phthalate plasticizers DEHA and 97A based on also considering exposures over the entire chemical and product supply chains. Our results illustrate the importance and feasibility to quantitatively integrate consumer and population impacts on a consistent mass-balance basis, allowing for an appropriate comparison of all contributing pathways, as well as to transparently identify suitable alternatives to harmful chemicals in consumer products.
Conclusions: As data and models for consumer exposure become more and more available, this USEtox-compatible approach constitutes an appropriate basis for characterizing human toxicity impacts from both consumer and population exposures, for use in LCA and chemical substitution.

References:

[1] Fantke P, et al. 2018. Advancements in life cycle human exposure and toxicity characterization. Environ Health Perspect 126:125001
[2] Global Guidance on Environmental Life Cycle Impact Assessment Indicators: Vol 2, Chapter 4: Human Toxicity. UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, 2019. Paris, France, pp. 80-103
[3] Fantke P, et al. 2016. Coupled near-field and far-field exposure assessment framework for chemicals in consumer products. Environ Int 94:508-518
[4] Guidance document on evaluating and expressing uncertainty in hazard characterization. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
[5] Overcash M, 2016. Environmental genome of industrial products (EGIP): The missing link for human health. Green Chem 18:3600-3606

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