Advancing Environmental Assessment of the Circular Economy: Challenges and Opportunities: Article No. 200203

Dwarakanath Ravikumar, Gregory Keoleian, Julien Walzberg, Garvin Heath, Martin Heller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The lifecycle assessment (LCA) framework is widely applied to comprehensively evaluate and improve the environmental performance of a circular economy (CE). The advances and application of LCA has been primarily restricted to evaluate the environmental performance of the CE at a micro-level, wherein the CE is implemented for a single product system. However, the CE can be operationalized at two broader levels: the meso-level (for eco-industrial parks) and the macro-level (for a city, state, or nation). Six methodological challenges emerge when applying LCA to a meso- or macro-level CE and remain unaddressed in the existing literature. This includes: selecting a relevant system boundary and functional unit, addressing data paucity and uncertainty, accounting for stakeholder behavior, assessing the trade-offs from renewable energy (RE) use, accounting for manufacturing and technology evolution, and quantifying displacement and rebound. This article proposes potential solutions and research priorities to address the above challenges.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages14
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling Advances
Volume21
DOIs
StatePublished - 2024

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-86450

Keywords

  • circular economy
  • data uncertainty
  • environmental assessment
  • lifecycle assessment
  • macro-level circular economy
  • meso-level circular economy

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