Introduction - Life cycle assessment of potential environmental impact reductions
In the last few decades, global environmental sustainability concerns have steadily increased due to climate changes, creating important and serious challenges to the transport sector and especially the maritime industry. Many studies indicate, that transitioning towards a circular economy may serve as key strategies to mitigate such challenges.
Circular economy creates value for businesses while minimizing environmental impacts and resource consumption through system-thinking by implementing strategies redefining products, product systems, and services. As an example, redefining a product system from a conventional linear approach to a circular approach, extending a product’s lifespan, may prove both economically and environmentally beneficial. From an economical perspective, life extension strategies introducing a circular loop may reduce the cost from investing in new products or other factors related to the product system significantly. From an environmental perspective, life extension strategies may reduce the environmental impacts significantly, from e.g. manufacturing of a new product, by keeping the product in a circular loop thus avoiding the need for a new product. (PRé Sustainability, 2020).
The ISO/ILCD approach divides the project into four assessment steps adapted from the ILCD framework:
- Goal definition
- Scope definition
- Inventory analysis
- Impact assessment
The goal definition addresses the intended application of the assessment, method assumption and limitations, the reason for the assessment and its decision context, target audience, the involvement of comparative assessments, and the commissioner of the assessment and possible influencing factors. The scope definition defines the assessment by addressing the form and types of deliveries, the object of assessment, the chosen life cycle inventory analysis modelling framework and correlating multifunctional processes, system boundaries, the basis for impact assessment e.g. which impact categories to include, and the technological, temporal and geographical representativeness of the assessment.
The last part of the life cycle assessment is the interpretation and conclusion, and further recommendations. The conclusion sums up the assessment, evaluating main findings from both early and late phases of the assessment in accordance with the goal and scope definition. Potential limitations to the assessment are drawn from the conclusion which leads to the development of recommendations to the targeted audience also in accordance with the goal and scope definition and the intended application of the assessment.
This introduction was mainly based on the literature found in ILCD Handbook, 2010 and the ISO 14040 and ISO 14044, respectively.
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