Every product consumed in our society has an associated environmental footprint. It can be measured using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This approach was developed in the 70’s to account for all the environmental impacts along the life cycle of products. Nowadays, the methodology recommended by the European Commission to evaluate the environmental footprint of products is based on LCA. This European method is known as Environmental Footprint (EF). As part of EF methodology, Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) is the one oriented to products and compiles guidelines, rules and methods to perform such assessments. The publication of such recommendation is an important step towards a fair communication and comparison of environmental impacts. However, different products may need different rules or methods to evaluate and compare their environmental footprint correctly. This is one of the main challenges in LCA and so it is for the assessment of bio-based products.
These products use biological, biotic or bio-based feedstock as main component in their composition. They are renewable and are produced by living organisms. The life cycle of bio-based materials and products is quite different to abiotic ones, in consequence, specific methodologies might be needed to calculate the environmental impacts of these products and, ultimately, compare them with their non-renewable counterpart. CALIMERO project is partially working in developing suitable LCA methodologies for bio-based products and will propose improved guidelines and methods compared to PEF. In particular the following weaknesses will be tackled:
- Including the time dimension in the assessment of carbon footprint.
- Quantification of impacts when bio-based products follow circular strategies, for example, when they are recycled into lower quality products or used as energy source.
- Proper assessment of toxicity impacts of specific chemicals used in bio-based products.
- Inclusion of ecosystem services in the assessment.
- Inclusion of assessment of impacts in biodiversity.
- Risk of supply and economic importance of bio-based feedstock (also known as criticality).
- Inclusion of socio-economic indicators in the assessment to cover all three pillars of sustainability.
The listed issues are currently not considered in the PEF methodology due to lack of development and harmonization, but these issues are crucial when assessing bio-based products and when comparing their environmental footprint with fossil or non-renewable counterparts. If you want to know more about why these indicators are target in CALIMERO project, stay tune to the following publications explaining each of them.