Life Cycle Assessment to evaluate environmental impacts of the bioeconomy
European Commission bets on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to monitor and predict environmental impacts of the bioeconomy and to ensure that it operates within safe ecological limits.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an international standardised method (ISO 14040: 2006) used to assess potential environmental impacts associated to a product, a process or a system throughout its life cycle (from the extraction of its raw materials to its end of life). Life cycle stages that could be modelled in bioeconomy are: biomass production, manufacturing, processing, retail, use, end of life, re-use, recycling, energy recovery.
The use of LCA applied to the bioeconomy has been analyzed in a brief prepared by Joint Research Centre (JRC) for the European Commission's Knowledge Centre for Bioeconomy. Despite uncertainty and limitations, LCA provides the most comprehensive, structured, consistent and robust means of assessing the environmental performance of bio-based products and systems. No other approach offers an environmental assessment of similar breadth and depth.
In this context, besides, the European Commission has launched the European Platform of Life Cycle Assessment intending to promote quality assured, life cycle information based on core products and services as well as consensus methodologies.