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The best impact assessment developments of 2019: other topics

At PRé, we are always keeping an eye on what impact assessment methodology developers are doing to make LCA even more reliable. In this 4-part series, we share with you the highlights of developments on a variety of topics: spatial differentiation, impact pathways, agricultural modelling and more. Today, in the last part of the series, we discuss important 2019 developments that did not fit under any of the other headings. This article was written by Laura Golsteijn with contributions from Stéphane Le Pochat, Christoph Meili, and Rosalie van Zelm.

By Laura Golsteijn on January 13, 2020

Impact assessment developments, part 4

 

Recommendations for aviation impacts

Aircraft contribute more to global warming than can be expected from their CO2 emissions alone. Therefore, SimaPro partner ESU-services set up recommendations for calculating the global warming potential of aviation, including the radiative forcing index (RFI). They provide RFI factors for multiplication with to the total aircraft CO2 emissions. The proposed method can be applied in carbon footprint and life cycle assessment studies. ESU-services recommends using this factor in sensitivity analyses if the impacts of aviation transport play a relevant role in a life cycle. The factor also needs to be considered for aircraft using biofuels. Click here to download the CSV-file.

 

Weighting factors based on planetary boundaries

A collaboration of Quantis, LÓréal, University of Michigan, and Radboud University Nijmegen developed operational life cycle impact assessment weighting factors for cosmetics products based on planetary boundaries. The paper showcases a set of planetary boundaries-based weighting factors for issues related to environmental quality, human health and resource depletion, aligned with the environmental indicators suggested in the European product environmental footprint (PEF) methodology. This new set of values was tested on several products from cosmetics company L’Oréal. Results show that the values are useful, since several impact categories (such as climate change and particulate matter) come out as significantly more critical than others. While limitations and improvements still need to be considered, the approach enriches the debate by defining thresholds for ecosystem or human resilience, thereby enabling reflection on how these issues should be collectively addressed.

 

Review of health risks of chemicals in consumer products

Many chemicals are used in consumer products, while our understanding of their exposure pathways and associated human health risks still lags behind. Dingsheng Li and Sangwon Suh analysed 342 papers covering 202 unique chemicals to identify the dominant exposure pathway patterns of and associated health risks of chemicals used in consumer products. From their review emerged a number of frequently reported functional use/product application combinations. The researchers emphasise the need to develop the capacity and the mechanism to identify human health risks of chemicals in consumer products prior to their release.

 
Generic framework for probabilistic comparative LCA

Variations due to data uncertainties and methodological choices are unavoidable but difficult to deal with. An international group of experts from the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Malaysia and Germany analysed combinations of uncertainties due to choices and data. They carefully define the idea of relativity and uncertainty within LCA and discuss a case where inappropriate handling of comparative uncertainties led to misleading results. They also analyse the occurrence of correlations and discuss the most convenient approaches for handling correlated uncertainties.

 

Circular VAT

A group of French experts affiliated with our SimaPro partner EVEA – Fondation 2019, Ademe and the Ministry of Environment (CGDD) – worked on monetisation of externalities for a circular VAT in the MODEXT project. The idea is to include the cost of externalities within the product market price, giving a significant price signal to consumers for eco-designed products and services. The concept was tested on five real products and services and presented at LCM 2019. The results show that the costs of environmental externalities are of the same order of magnitude as the price of products (40-87% of the product price, excluding taxes). Applying a circular VAT based on externalities resulted in significant market price differentials (13-58% of the reference price, including all taxes).

 

If you are interested in reading more about any of these developments, follow the links or contact us. Are you a researcher working on something that might be relevant to share? We are always happy to hear about new developments, so do not hesitate to reach out.

 

This was the last part of this series. You can reread the previous parts here: 

Stay tuned for next year, when we hope to have as fertile a crop of new developments as this year!

Contact the author

“I am eager to increase the environmental awareness of our society, and I believe that everyone can contribute to a more sustainable world, every day. At PRé we provide companies with both the knowledge and the tools to improve their products and services. I am excited to work for an organisation that is involved in developing sustainable initiatives.”

Contact Laura Golsteijn
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