Evaluating the environmental dimension of material efficiency strategies relating to the circular economy

Walker, Stuart, Coleman, Nick, Hodgson, Peter, Collins, Nicola and Brimacombe, Louis 2018, Evaluating the environmental dimension of material efficiency strategies relating to the circular economy, Sustainability, vol. 10, no. 3, Environmental Life Cycle Assessment - Special Issue, doi: 10.3390/su10030666.

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Title Evaluating the environmental dimension of material efficiency strategies relating to the circular economy
Author(s) Walker, Stuart
Coleman, Nick
Hodgson, Peter
Collins, Nicola
Brimacombe, Louis
Journal name Sustainability
Volume number 10
Issue number 3
Season Environmental Life Cycle Assessment - Special Issue
Total pages 14
Publisher M D P I
Place of publication Basel, Switzerland
Publication date 2018-03-01
ISSN 1937-0695
2071-1050
Keyword(s) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
circular economy
material efficiency
recycling
reuse
Summary Material efficiency is a key element of new thinking to address the challenges of reducing impacts on the environment and of resource scarcity, whilst at the same time meeting service and functionality demands on materials. Directly related to material efficiency is the concept of the Circular Economy, which is based on the principle of optimising the utility embodied in materials and products through the life-cycle. Although materials such as steel, on account of high recycling rates at end-of-life, are amongst the most 'circular' of manufactured materials, significant opportunities for greater material efficiency exist, which are yet to be widely implemented. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is commonly used to assess the environmental benefits of recovering and recycling materials through the manufacturing supply chain and at end-of-life. Using an example taken from renewable energy generation, this paper explores the correlation between product circularity and the environmental case for strategies designed to improve material efficiency. An LCA-based methodology for accounting for the recovery and reuse of materials from the supply chain and at end-of-life is used as the basis for calculating the carbon footprint benefits of five material efficiency scenarios. The results are compared with a number of proposed material circularity indicators. Two conclusions from this exercise are that (i) LCA methodologies based around end-of-life approaches are well placed for quantifying the environmental benefits of material efficiency and circular economy strategies and (ii) when applying indicators relating to the circularity of materials these should also be supported by LCA-based studies.
Language eng
DOI 10.3390/su10030666
Field of Research 0502 Environmental Science And Management
1605 Policy And Administration
Copyright notice ©2018, The Authors
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30111126

Document type: Journal Article
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