Unlocking the Sustainability Benefits: The importance of the Assessment
In the transition pathway from a linear towards a circular economic model, it is fundamental to evaluate the transition performance according to sustainability principles. In fact, only proper assessment can avoid the risk of shifting the burdens from one life cycle stage to another.
The SYMSITES project aims at developing high-technology solutions to achieve a real circular economy, enabling increased sustainability in the use of industrial and societal resources. To reach its goal, the project needs an effective strategy to evaluate the process.
Evaluation strategies: LCA, LCC and SLCA Analysis
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) are three methodologies widely used to evaluate the impact of products, processes and services respectively in environmental, economic and social contexts.
These methodologies are based on the Life Cycle Thinking framework, which monitors and evaluates the environmental, economic and social performance of a target system. It covers the entire life cycle: from the extraction of raw materials to the final end-of-life, including recycling.
Life cycle thinking meets sustainability concerns at points where it provides decision-makers with a robust tool in the supply of materials that best makes a balance between current and future needs of the global community[ISO 14044]
LCA, LCC and SLCA analyses share a common approach. After having identified the boundaries, the next step is to quantify material and energy inputs and outputs, from a technical and economic point of view.
In the LCA methodology, the flows of materials and energy are converted into environmental impacts. The process uses specific characterization factors, developed by the scientific community and recognized internationally. These impacts are then grouped into different categories, each of which assesses the burdens on a specific environmental aspect.
LCA promotes continuous monitoring and assists in developing new strategies to reduce the impacts. The methodology also integrates and evaluates probable positive implications deriving from cooperation among companies with a view to industrial symbiosis. This is achievable through the redistribution and efficiency of infrastructures as well as through the re-valuation of waste.
“Social impacts are consequences of positive or negative pressures on social endpoints”[Benoît, C., Mazijn, B. et al. 2009]
SLCA methodology assesses the social and sociological aspects of the system as well as their actual and potential impacts along the life cycle. SLCA uses generic and site-specific data, which can be quantitative, semi-quantitative or qualitative, and complements the LCA and LCC.
These tools allow for increased competitiveness and process efficiency. At the same time, assessing these dimensions of SYMSITES processes and flows can increase the overall sustainability of the project outcomes.