With our Life Cycle Research Highlights we are putting a spotlight on open access papers we feel deserve special attention! Each month, we highlight four papers that we consider innovative, insightful and well written. Support us in identifying great research and submit a paper for consideration by our selection committee here. Subscribe to our dedicated project newsletter and receive our summaries each month directly in your mailbox!

Environmental and nutritional Life Cycle Assessment of novel foods in meals as transformative food for the future

Our Summary:

The authors employed a nutritional LCA (nLCA) considering nutrient and environmental factors of novel foods in meals. They established a 'cradle to consumer' system boundary, utilized the AGRIBALYSE 3.1 LCA Database, and applied the ReCiPe 2016 Midpoint and AWARE as methods to calculate environmental impacts. As a result, microalgae, mycoprotein, fish, and beef, had moderate nutritional footprint effect levels. The study suggests the need for further research to comprehensively understand the cultural, ethical, and economic implications of novel food formulations.

Life cycle engineering of space systems: Preliminary findings

Our Summary:

LCE is commonly applied in areas where sustainability concerns coincide with design and production engineering. Therefore, the authors used the Strathclyde Space Systems Database and applied Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis to quantitatively determine the sustainability impacts of early space missions. The article considered twelve impact categories at midpoint level: air acidification, climate change, social impact, whole life cost, among others. As a result, the scores generated for each of the sustainability dimensions should be used instead of a single sustainability score.

Life‑LCA: case study of the life cycle impacts of an infant

Our Summary:

Life-LCA has advanced as a method of assessing and analyzing the impacts of human product and service consumption behaviour from the prenatal phase through age 49. According to the studies, more than 50% of emissions are attributed to transportation and food across all the impact categories, including climate change, acidification, eutrophication, and photochemical ozone formation. There is a high contribution from clothing consumption during the prenatal and infant phases, while energy and water have a major impact in adulthood phases.

Bioplastic production in terms of life cycle assessment: A state-of-the-art review

Our Summary:

Through a literature review of articles on bioplastics, the study highlights that the recycling of both plastics and bioplastics could potentially lead to an increase in environmental impacts instead of a decrease. The article emphasizes the significance of incorporating multiple impact categories into the LCA when assessing bioplastics as a material to support the circular economy. The authors suggest that more research is necessary to fully comprehend the potential of bioplastics, considering the impacts, harmonization, and methodological enhancements of LCA.

Life cycle thinking and safe-and-sustainable-by-design approaches for the battery innovation landscape

Journal: iScience

Our Summary:

This article uses Life Cycle Thinking as a methodology to address the impacts of the battery production value chain in Safe-and-Sustainable-by-Design. SSbD targets the dimensions of safety, environmental, social, and economic sustainability. The authors used LCA, S-LCA, LCC and the Levelized Cost of Storage indicator to compare categories such as criticality, human toxicity, environmental toxicity, social impact, circularity, functionality, and cost for battery technologies. The review found that the creation and integration of knowledge-based systems improve the operationalization of SSbD.

Sizing a hybrid hydrogen production plant including life cycle assessment indicators by combining NSGA-III and principal component analysis (PCA)

Our Summary:

For the design of a hybrid hydrogen production plant, the authors considered the assessment of the environmental performance of each component using an LCA model in Brightway2 (Python). An evolutionary algorithm NSGA-III was used to evaluate the performance of 13 midpoint indicators selected from IMPACT World+. The study found that the following impact categories should be considered to avoid impact transfer: climate change, freshwater ecotoxicity, land acidification, water scarcity, ozone depletion, ionising radiation, and fossil and nuclear energy use.

Progress of social assessment in the framework of bioeconomy under a life cycle perspective

Our Summary:

The shift towards a bioeconomy framework requires greater attention to the societal context in which new technologies, bioenergy systems, and bioproducts will be developed. During the review, it was determined that the social aspects are largely limited to labour issues, product, and organisational perspectives. Therefore, the authors suggest integrating multi-level perspectives into the S-LCA to promote the transition to the bioeconomy. Including indicators related to social norms and values, entrepreneurship, consumer behaviour, and government promotion and support.

Economic Indicators for Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: Going beyond Life Cycle Costing

Our Summary:

The article emphasizes the need to establish a broader framework for addressing the economic dimension of LCSA. Accordingly, the Environmental LCC approach is incorporated to assess all internal and external costs associated with a product's life cycle, including monetized externalities. The review resulted in 21 indicators, with a high level of measurability and usability, grouped into six economic impact categories: profitability, stability, autonomy, productivity, customers, and innovation. Therefore, this catalogue provides decision-makers with a diverse representation of economic performance.

How to embed environmental sustainability: The role of dynamic capabilities and managerial approaches in a life cycle management perspective

Our Summary:

The study identified how internal capabilities and managerial approaches influence the probability of an organization embedding LCM within its operations. For this purpose, the study conducted an empirical survey of 187 Italian medium and large manufacturing enterprises. The concept model was based on four profiles, considering organizational barriers and levels of willingness to adopt LCM strategies. The authors concluded that firms could spot environmental opportunities for innovation and LCM embeddedness by combining sensing and seizing capabilities with an integrative approach.

Life Cycle Gap Analysis for Product Circularity and Sustainability—a Case Study with Three Different Products

Our Summary:

This paper evaluates life cycle gaps of three products, plastic bottles (54%), rechargeable batteries (61%) and t-shirts (98%) and compares the three. It concludes that there is a large potential in improving current life cycle systems of several industries and product groups. Furthermore, a methodological weakness is also identified, i.e. the fact that a life cycle gap analysis assumes the general necessity of a product or service as opposed to evaluating whether circularity can be improved with more disruptive innovations.

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