Life Cycle Sustainability Analysis of Resource Recovery from Waste Management Systems in the Context of Circular Models of the Economy and the Bioeconomy

A special issue of Resources (ISSN 2079-9276).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 March 2024 | Viewed by 6039

Special Issue Editors

Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research—UFZ, Department of Bioenergy, Permoserstr. 15, 04318 Leipzig, Germany
Interests: resource management under life cycle concepts; social life cycle assessment in regional contexts; regionalized assessment of sustainability issues related to the bioeconomy field; evaluation of emerging bio-based technologies under a system analysis perspective
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Department of Economics, Management and Business Law, University of Bari Aldo Moro, 70124 Bari, Italy
Interests: life cycle assessment; energy systems and climate change; the environmental impact and assessment of weee; end-of-life management; environmental impact of tourism; water and carbon footprint; circular economy; biomass and biofuels of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
1. Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Zittau/Goerlitz University of Applied Sciences, Zittau, Germany
2. ZIRKON—Zittau Institute for Process Engineering, Circular Economy, Surface Technology, Natural Materials Research, Leader of the Working Group Bioeconomy, Zittau, Germany
Interests: circular bioeconomy; life cycle sustainability assessment; industrial symbiosis; cleaner production
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment (Di3A), University of Catania, 95123 Catania, Italy
Interests: livestock buildings; ammonia and GHG emissions; precision livestock farming; sensors; monitoring; measuring; modelling
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The economy for the last 150 years has been based upon the take–make–use–dispose model that—as is known—results in the unresponsibile, uncontrolled extraction of resources for production and consumption, and no effective plans for waste reutilisation and economy regeneration.

In recent years, such a linear model of the economy has become a global concern and has been proven as causing a number of problems, mainly related to:

  • Virgin materials being extracted beyond their replenishment capacities;
  • Post-use commodities being often landfilled or being treated in inceneration plants, which has the consequence of valuable and scarce natural resources being extracted anew, and the original resources being lost for the manufacturing of new products;
  • Unsafe, unsustainable waste-management practices leading to hazardous substances being emitted into the air, water and soil, and generating alarming environmental-pollution conditions;
  • Product manufacturing and distribution being responsible for extensive energy use, emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, thus, heavily damaging human health, resources, climate change and ecosystem quality.

All those aspects contribute to making the linear model of the economy totally unsustainable from an integrated, holistic perspective. This puts emphasis upon the urgent need for transitioning to a model of the economy that maximises circularity of resources, thus, generating environmental and socioeconomic benefits that are well documented in the literature and mainly derived from resource prevention.

In this context, the circular economy (CE) is increasingly attracting interest and attention from international science and policy communities, as it provides the eco-design and promotion of durable products that can be reused, repaired and remanufactured before being recycled. By doing so, the CE helps in maintaining products, components and materials at their highest levels of utility and value.

The CE differs from the former, linear economic model, as it is essentially based upon the two complementary features of slowing and closing the resource loops that are accomplished through five circular flows (i.e. share, repair, reuse, remanufacture and recycling), whilst maximising resource efficiency. In practice, through those flows, the CE minimises waste and excessive resource utilisation by turning goods at the end of their lifespans, as well as the wastes from their manufacturing and usage, into resources for the production of other commodities. Therefore, from a CE perspective, integrated strategies should be implemented:

  • for preventing wastes being generated both from the technical and the biological cycles; and
  • for managing and recovering, in more sustainable manners, the biomass and non-biomass wastes that are inevitably generated.

Under this perspective, affordable, effective and sustainable waste-management systems are essential for sustainable development, as they can contribute to reducing the jeopardisation of material and energy resources from enhanced globalisation and industrialisation.

Within this context, it is no surprise that waste valorisation through sustainable management scenarios is increasingly receiving attention and interest from researchers, producers, and decision and policy makers. It plays multiple key roles in the sustainability of a huge number of sectors, including agriculture and food production, buildings and bioenergy, and can favour the implementation of sustainable development paths in the urban and rural context.

For waste-management systems to be sustainable, the environmental, economic and social aspects need to be computed. Methodologies, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA), are very powerful tools to address trade-offs, both amongst life cycle stages and amongst different sustainability pillars.

In this context, the significant response to our previous Special Issue encouraged the Journal Editors to implement a second volume on this topic, aiming at contributing further to advance the literature and the knowledge on such a relevant field of research. The Guest Editors are confident that, along with the previous one, this second volume will make it possible to create a reliable and up-to-date picture of the state of the art of LCA and LCSA applications for waste-management systems in the context of circular economy and circular bioeconomy.

Dr. Carlo Ingrao
Dr. Alberto Bezama
Dr. Annarita Paiano
Prof. Dr. Jakob Hildebrandt
Prof. Dr. Claudia Arcidiacono
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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  • sustainability
  • circular economy
  • circular bioeconomy
  • resource recovery
  • life cycle assessment
  • life cycle sustainability assessment

Published Papers (2 papers)

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14 pages, 3043 KiB  
Technogenic Reservoirs Resources of Mine Methane When Implementing the Circular Waste Management Concept
Resources 2024, 13(2), 33; - 17 Feb 2024
Viewed by 293
From a commercial viewpoint, mine methane is the most promising object in the field of reducing emissions of climate-active gases due to circular waste management. Therefore, the task of this research is to estimate the technogenic reservoirs resources of mine methane when implementing [...] Read more.
From a commercial viewpoint, mine methane is the most promising object in the field of reducing emissions of climate-active gases due to circular waste management. Therefore, the task of this research is to estimate the technogenic reservoirs resources of mine methane when implementing the circular waste management concept. The novelty of the authors’ approach lies in reconstructing the response space for the dynamics of methane release from the front and cross projections: CH4 = ƒ(S; t) and CH4 = ƒ(S; L), respectively. The research established a polynomial dependence of nonlinear changes in methane concentrations in the mixture extracted by type 4 wells when a massif is undermined as a result of mining in a full-retreat panel. And the distance from the face to the start of mining the panel is reduced by 220 m. For this reason, the emission of mine methane, in case of degasification network disruption in 15 days, can amount to more than 660 thousand m3 only for wells of type no. 4. Full article
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18 pages, 720 KiB  
A LifeCycle Analysis and Economic Cost Analysis of Corrugated Cardboard Box Reuse and Recycling in the United States
Resources 2023, 12(2), 22; - 01 Feb 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 4753
Manufacturing of a product such as a corrugated cardboard box (CCB) includes the extraction of a variety of raw materials in addition to supply chain efforts to get the raw materials to the industry. Conducting a LifeCycle Assessment (LCA) gives the carbon emission [...] Read more.
Manufacturing of a product such as a corrugated cardboard box (CCB) includes the extraction of a variety of raw materials in addition to supply chain efforts to get the raw materials to the industry. Conducting a LifeCycle Assessment (LCA) gives the carbon emission of each phase of the product and a quantitative estimate of the overall product carbon footprint and its effect on the environment. This gives impetus to recommendations for improving the phases of the lifecycle to minimize carbon emissions. The proposed waste management method in this paper is the “reuse” method instead of recycling or landfilling the CCB and, in so doing, focusing only on reducing carbon emissions in the manufacturing phase. The paper examines if the incremental cost of reusing the CCBs is less than the environmental and economic cost of reducing the extraction and supply chain of raw materials. This paper uses LCA to evaluate the carbon emission in each phase of the lifecycle of a typical 1 kg corrugated cardboard box in the United States. Carbon emission for the proposed “reuse” phase is also calculated, and the results are compared. This paper also explores the economic feasibility of the proposed “reuse” method that incentivizes the general population to reuse the CCBs instead of recycling or landfilling them. Economic tools such as willingness-to-pay vs. marginal cost curves and benefit-cost analyses are used to evaluate economic feasibility. The results indicate that the “reuse” method for CCBs is economically and environmentally feasible. It also supports the approach of using analytics, economics, and LCA to create a model that can be used for other products and processes as an evaluative process to determine if businesses can benefit from the reduction (or removal) of material extraction costs from the supply chain. Full article
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Life cycle sustainability assessment of nature-based solutions for greywater treatment and reuse integrated with rainwater harvesting for residential buildings

Abstract: Nature-based solutions (NbS) are environmental interventions to improve resilience in urban spaces, fighting problems arising from unsustainable urbanization, such as climate change, loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services. Although most studies are focused only on environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), mainly when comparing different alternatives, studies that address the three dimensions of the Life cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) related to the use of NbS for water reuse, are still scarce in the literature especially discussing scenarios in both Latin America and Europe. In this context, this study proposes a LCSA of NbS applied to greywater treatment and reuse integrated with rainwater harvesting, thus considering the environmental, economic, and social dimensions. Basically, we accessed different case studies in Brazil and Germany. In Brazil, a modified constructed wetland was evaluated – the EvaTAC system, which combines an anaerobic digestion chamber with a constructed wetland with horizontal subsurface flow. In Germany, a vertical flow constructed wetland was designed to attend workers of the railway project Stuttgart 21 who were temporally residing on the site. Results from LCA, Life Cycle Costing (LCC), and Social LCA (S-LCA) were reported through a multicriteria analysis. Our findings provided sufficient subsidies capable of demonstrating the benefits of using NbS for the urban water management, identifying scenarios more suitable than conventional systems. We conclude that the evaluation of different alternatives from the perspective of only one dimension is shown to be quite restricted, thus, when considering more dimensions, other benefits may emerge and influence the choice of alternatives.

Keywords: green and blue infrastructure; life cycle assessment; economic viability; social impact; water reuse

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