Methods 6: Contemporary LCA Topics & Studies

As life cycle professionals, we often are busy with our daily job duties and can have little time to keep abreast of the LCA studies published and new methodologies and innovative solutions to overcome the limitations of LCA. In this session, hear from four speakers presenting papers that tackle various important LCA topics; 1) a methodology on partial disclosure of LCA data; 2) critical review and a simplified approach of temporal LCAs; 3) estimating environmental load/contribution structure in packaged food industry through LCA of retort pouch curry; and 4) LCA of chemical and organic fertilization in cactus production. These topics will improve our understanding of hot LCA topics and methodologies. We hope you can join us for an interactive and engaging session on these exciting topics.

Key Discussion Points:

  1. How easy it is for LCA practitioners to learn and utilize the obfuscation methodologies and produce parametric inventory models in order to achieve a partial disclosure?
  2. Is there a tool to allow the evaluation of results and sufficiently disguise confidential information from back or reverse calculations?
  3. How robust are the temporal (dynamic) LCA results? And how can a simplified approach make them consistent, understandable and meaningful?
  4. Should more temporal (dynamic) LCAs be conducted by organizations?
  5. What are the key learnings and limitation of the cactus cladode production LCA? Can the results be generalized fir organic and chemical fertilizers?
  6. What is the importance of environmental load estimation? And how can the learnings from the retort pouch curry study be used in life cycle thinking strategies? And how will the PWMI use these learnings in order to express contributions while maintaining the quality or freshness of the food content?
CHAIR: Naji Kasem
10:30 Brandon KuczenskiAmr El AbbadiCetin Sahin and Omer Egecioglu

Partial Disclosure: Balancing Confidentiality and Transparency in LCA Publishing

ABSTRACT. Private companies reporting LCA results must always balance their desire to publish environmental performance data against their need to protect the privacy of confidential information. Usually this is accomplished by “rolling up” private data sets with background data to prevent reverse-engineering. However, the usefulness of rolled up data is highly limited because there is no way to determine analytically the scope of background data and the system boundary assumptions used by the authors, or to make parametric modifications of the data sets. There is also no way to validate the system model or verify the accuracy of results.

In practice, companies are willing to disclose certain properties of their model but not others, often in a written report. However, it is challenging to express these details computationally. Analysts wishing to make use of published results are required to interpret and manually reproduce models from documentation. This makes the comparison of results from different studies arduous and error-prone.

We present an LCA study description and publication strategy that may be used to represent study design precisely in terms of private and non-private components. We consider how graph anonymization techniques drawn from social network analysis could be used to obfuscate the contents of the public portion of the model, thereby protecting the contents of the private portion.

Using this strategy would require making assurances to both sides of the obfuscation: the company must be sure that its private data are protected, and the analyst must be sure that the obfuscated model bears some reflection of reality, i.e. that the company’s obfuscated model is not grossly misrepresentative. We discuss conditions that can be placed on the obfuscated model that could ensure both requirements are satisfied. This technique can be used by individual firms to publish more useful parametric inventory models that retain confidentiality; by trade groups that wish to establish a standard for member companies to submit mutually consistent data sets; and by public database maintainers that seek richer contributions from data providers.

10:45 Chris Mutel

Temporal life cycle assessment: critical review and a simplified approach


Temporal (dynamic) life cycle assessment has been a hot topic in recent years, and a new methodology appears seemingly every few months. In the first half of this presentation, I present a critical review of existing temporal calculation methodologies and case studies, including several papers from 2014 and 2015. I highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each of the proposed approaches, including computational complexity, data availability, interaction between inventory and impact assessment, and result applicability. A core set of desired properties for temporal LCA is extracted from this comparison. As temporal LCA frequently requires new software development, I also review and discuss several lessons from generally accepted software practice, such as the value of simplicity.

I then present a new methodology for simple temporal LCA, using convolution but without a fixed time scale. Characterization factors can be static, spread their impact over time (e.g. radiative forcing factors), or even be dynamically calculated as a function of emission time and year. This methodology is operationalized in the open source software package temporalis [1], which builds on the Brightway2 LCA framework [2]. Using case studies of individual transport and glulam production linked to the ecoinvent 2.2 database, I show how this new methodology can realize most of the desired properties of temporal LCA, while still being relatively easy to both calculate and understand. I show how the new methodology can be used with dynamic inventories and characterization factors. The case study calculations can be done in real-time and in a reproducible and transparent way using an online scientific notebook during the presentation.

This presentation was supported by SCCER Mobility.

[1] [2]

11:00 Akihiro IzumiAtsushi InabaTakasuke IshitaniHiroshi HasegawaIkuo KomatsuTakeo ShiinaManabu WatanabeNobuo KanazawaJunichi NakahashiKatsuyuki HayashiOsamu SakaguchiHirokazu Hayashi and Ryosuke Aoki

Estimating Environmental Load through Total Life Cycle of Retort Pouch Curry

ABSTRACT. In Japan, it is well known that the use of plastic materials in food packaging meets a variety of packaging needs (protecting contents, enhancing ease of handling, etc.).In this work, we examine instant curry that comes in a retort pouch package and compare the environmental load (energy consumption, CO2 emissions) between the commercial manufacturing of such curry and the cooking of it at home. The result shows that a reduction effect of 0.05 MJ in energy consumption can be achieved by using plastic packaging materials, CO2 emissions, meanwhile, remain about the same.The energy consumption and CO2 emissions for the retort curry were 2.47 MJ/meal and 0.18 kg-CO2/meal, respectively. These results demonstrate that the retort curry consumes 0.05 MJ less energy than homemade curry while the CO2 emissions are approximately the same. We can therefore conclude that the mass-production effect of retort curry helps reduce the load. Environmental load through total life cycle of food produced by mass production and packaged by plastic packaging materials can make it possible to meet with the load through that of homemade food.

11:15 Rafael Ramirez-ArpideTeodoro Espinosa-SolaresVinicio H. Santoyo-CortesGöksel Demirer and Clemente Gallegos-Vazquez

LCA Elements for chemical and organic cactus cladode production

ABSTRACT. The aim of the study was to apply LCA to cactus production using two different fertilization sources, chemical and organic. The system limits included all the activities related to cactus (Opuntia ficus indica) cladode production; such as tillage, plantation, fertilization, pest and desease control, irrigation, pruning, harvest, and product transportation. The functional unit was one tonne of harvested cactus cladode. The life cycle inventory inputs were energy, fertilizers, pesticides, water; while the outputs were GHG emissions, harvested cactus cladodes, and leaching. The impact categories were warming global potential (WGP), ozone formation potential (OFP), eutrophication potential (EP), acidification potential (AP), and energy demand (ED). When both technologies were compared, the production using organic fertilization was more environmentally friendly than the one that used chemical fertilizers. Thus, the evaluated impact categories reduction using organic fertilization, compared to the chemical one, were as follows WGP 18.9 %, OFP 11.0 %, EP 18.8 %, AP 11.8 %, and ED 37.5%.