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SETAC Europe: A multidisciplinary approach to research and policy

The 23rd SETAC Annual Europe Meeting was held May 12 - 16 in Glasgow (glasgow.setac.eu). The event was attended by members from all over the world, most of whom work on research unrelated to LCA.

An unlikely meeting of minds

The 23rd SETAC Annual Europe Meeting was held May 12 - 16 in Glasgow. The event was attended by members from all over the world, most of whom work on research unrelated to LCA. However, many scientists working on life cycle impact assessment (LCIA), joined the event to discuss the latest developments in their field. And although SETAC, which stands for Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, might make you think that the main topics discussed were humans and eco-toxicity, a wide range of impact categories were discussed, from climate change to resource depletion.

 

Up for discussion: Reducing statistical uncertainty and impact assessments

Hot topics discussed included cross-cutting issues, such as statistical uncertainty in impact assessment and spatial differentiation. For example, several researchers found that they could reduce a large amount of uncertainty by using archetypes (type of local circumstances, such as rural or urban) or subcontinental regions to specify local impact of certain toxic emissions.

A lot of progress has also been made in calculating the local impact of water use, though there is still work to be done to create a robust and widely accepted method. Also of note was the discussion in the field of resource depletion/scarcity/criticality, as to how this subject should be treated within LCIA.

 

LCA applications: Environmental appropriateness and PCR harmonization

Policy applications of LCA were also discussed in depth at the meeting. Mainly, attendees considered the question of the environmental appropriateness of bio-based materials, such as bio-fuels and bio-plastics, especially in terms of environmental impact categories other than climate change. There was also talk about product category rule (PCR) harmonization, and how to conduct an LCA on specific products. Does harmonization really lead to consistency? Or are researchers making exceptions to the general rules of LCA, such as ISO14040/44?

 

LC-IMPACT: Striving toward a consistent framework

There was also a special session organized by the LC-IMPACT project. Almost every work-package leader presented results (www.lc-impact.eu for more). Attendees learned that a great deal of work has been done, to interesting results. The question was raised, however, on how all these individual findings can be combined in a consistent LCIA framework.

 

After the SETAC meeting concluded, there was a special meeting of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. The group is starting a flagship activity, Environmental Life Cycle Impact Assessment Indicators, dedicated “to running a global process aimed at global guidance and consensus, building on a limited number of life cycle impact category indicators developed within a consistent framework.” PRé is Platinum Sponsor of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative.

 

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