Assessing impacts of abiotic resource use has been a topic of persistent debate among life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) method developers and a source of confusion for life cycle assessment (LCA) practitioners considering the different interpretations of the safeguard subject for mineral resources and the resulting variety of LCIA methods to choose from. Based on the review and assessment of 27 existing LCIA methods, accomplished in the first part of this paper series (Sonderegger et al. 2020), this paper provides recommendations regarding the application-dependent use of existing methods and areas for future method development.
Within the “global guidance for LCIA indicators and methods” project of the Life Cycle Initiative hosted by UN Environment, 62 members of the “task force mineral resources” representing different stakeholders discussed the strengths and limitations of existing LCIA methods and developed initial conclusions. These were used by a subgroup of eight members at the Pellston Workshop® held in Valencia, Spain, to derive recommendations on the application-dependent use and future development of impact assessment methods.
Results and discussion
First, the safeguard subject for mineral resources within the area of protection (AoP) natural resources was defined. Subsequently, seven key questions regarding the consequences of mineral resource use were formulated, grouped into “inside-out” related questions (i.e., current resource use leading to changes in opportunities for future users to use resources) and “outside-in” related questions (i.e., potential restrictions of resource availability for current resource users). Existing LCIA methods were assigned to these questions, and seven methods (ADPultimate reserves, SOPURR, LIME2endpoint, CEENE, ADPeconomic reserves, ESSENZ, and GeoPolRisk) are recommended for use in current LCA studies at different levels of recommendation. All 27 identified LCIA methods were tested on an LCA case study of an electric vehicle, and yielded divergent results due to their modeling of impact mechanisms that address different questions related to mineral resource use. Besides method-specific recommendations, we recommend that all methods increase the number of minerals covered, regularly update their characterization factors, and consider the inclusion of secondary resources and anthropogenic stocks. Furthermore, the concept of dissipative resource use should be defined and integrated in future method developments.
In an international consensus-finding process, the current challenges of assessing impacts of resource use in LCA have been addressed by defining the safeguard subject for mineral resources, formulating key questions related to this safeguard subject, recommending existing LCIA methods in relation to these questions, and highlighting areas for future method development.
Purpose The safeguard subject of the Area of Protection "natural Resources," particularly regarding mineral resources, has long been debated. Consequently, a variety of life cycle impact assessment methods based on different concepts are available. The Life Cycle Initiative, hosted by the UN Environment, established an expert task force on "Mineral Resources" to review existing methods (this article) and provide guidance for application-dependent use of the methods and recommendations for further methodological development (Berger et al. in Int J Life Cycle Assess, 2020). Methods Starting in 2017, the task force developed a white paper, which served as its main input to a SETAC Pellston Workshop® in June 2018, in which a sub-group of the task force members developed recommendations for assessing impacts of mineral resource use in LCA. This article, based mainly on the white paper and pre-workshop discussions, presents a thorough review of 27 different life cycle impact assessment methods for mineral resource use in the "natural resources" area of protection. The methods are categorized according to their basic impact mechanisms, described and compared, and assessed against a comprehensive set of criteria.
A circular economy involves maintaining manufactured products in circulation, distributing resource and environmental costs over time and with repeated use. In a linear supply chain, manufactured products are used once and discarded. In high-income nations, health care systems increasingly rely on linear supply chains composed of singleuse disposable medical devices. This has resulted in increased health care expenditures and health care-generated waste and pollution, with associated public health damage. It has also caused the supply chain to be vulnerable to disruption and demand fluctuations. Transformation of the medical device industry to a more circular economy would advance the goal of providing increasingly complex care in a low-emissions future. Barriers to circularity include perceptions regarding infection prevention, behaviors of device consumers and manufacturers, and regulatory structures that encourage the proliferation of disposable medical devices. Complementary policy-and market-driven solutions are needed to encourage systemic transformation.
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