News

08.05.2024

På SETAC – Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry – Europeisk årsmøte i Sevilla deltar seniorforsker Cecilia Askham. På mandag presenterte hun arbeidet hun har gjort i forbindelse med hennes “co-chair”-rolle i “Weighting subtask of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Life Cycle Initiative’s Global Guidance for Life Cycle Impact Assessment Indicators and Methods” (GLAM). Dette omhandler hvordan man kan vekte forskjellige typer skader på mennesker og miljøet basert på å spørre folk i hele verden om sine meninger. Hun presenterte faktorene som ble forsket frem og hvordan de er sammenlignet med andre vektingsfaktorer som allerede eksisterer.

NORSUS presenterer også bidraget, «The Importance of Material Flow Analysis (MFA) for Life Cycle Assessment of Microplastics” av Simon Saxegård, Cecilia Askham, Valentina Pauna og Mafalda Silva. Dette omhandler hvordan man kan bruke MFA for å få med makro- og mikroplast i data som skal ligge til grunn for en LCA. Arbeidet har fokusert på landbruksplast som brukes på åkere på gårder i Europa og viser hvordan data og informasjon som er tilgjengelig kan brukes i dag for å inkludere plastlekkasjer til naturen i LCA studier. Viktige områder for videre forskning er identifisert, bl.a. må flere effekter av plast på avveie inkluderes. MFA bør være med i utvikling av bedre modeller for hvordan plast på avveie kan bevege seg i naturen og utsette flere organismer for fare i jord, ferskvann og havet, der flere organismer eksponeres flere ganger over tid, siden plast er et material med lang levetid i naturen.

Both contributions to the conference include important methodological inputs to the Dsolve centre for research-based innovation

16.04.2024

In the preliminary study titled ‘Pyrolysis versus Waste Incineration – with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS),’ our senior researchers, Hanne Lerche Raadal and Ingunn Saur Modahl, compared the climate impact and primary energy use for pyrolysis and waste incineration, both with and without CCS. The analyses were conducted using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. 

The results indicate that pyrolysis of residual waste is an interesting treatment option compared to energy recovery through incineration. Specifically, pyrolysis can result in lower greenhouse gas emissions than incineration when the incineration plant does not utilize CCS. However, for incineration plants with CCS, waste incineration may achieve better results than pyrolysis, depending on the assumed storage stability of the char produced during the pyrolysis process. 

NORSUS recommends that the knowledge gained from this preliminary project should form the basis for a larger research project, where more comprehensive sustainability analyses are conducted. 

Read the full preliminary report here (in Norwegian)

This project was funded by the Regional Research Fund for Vestfold and Telemark.

15.04.2024

Authors: Clara Valente and Mehrdad Ghorbani Mooselu

It is crucial to propose and discuss digital solutions to make Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) easier for industries to implement. The increasing interest in social sustainability and the lack of accessible and time-saving digital solutions for companies to streamline and quantify S-LCA necessitates developing digital solutions for collecting, systematizing, and analyzing sustainability data.

The main goal of the SoBOS project is to facilitate achieving social sustainability goals for companies through easy and time-saving solutions that visualize the impact of implemented measures and include automatic data harvest, machine learning, the use of digital twins, and big data.

The indicators related to Workers and Local communities were prioritized for data collection, including quantitative and qualitative indicators. Our findings suggest that quantitative metrics are more likely to be integrated into the digital system. In contrast, qualitative indicators exhibit variations in definitions across industries, resulting in a broader spectrum of focal areas.

Social aspects given precedence in this study, such as work-life balance, the physical and psychological well-being of employees, and the promotion of diversity in various manifestations, are more challenging to integrate into a digital framework.

Limitations for different indicators and data collection possibilities were discussed with Grayn and involved industrial partners.


See more about the project here

05.04.2024

Last year, EPD Norway signed an agreement with the North American organisation Labeling Sustainability about the possibility to develop EPDs (Environmental Footprint Declarations) that satisfy both European and American requirements. The EPD for Carbon Crusher is the first to be developed through this agreement. The challenge was mainly related to the use of the TraCi method, which is required in the US, but which does not consider biogenic carbon. NORSUS researchers Mafalda Silva and Mehrdad Ghorbani Mooselu developed the EPD to EPD-Norway and contributed to the conversion of the results to the North American EPD framework.

Carbon Crusher is an innovative company who provides a greener method for road rehabilitation projects by using a bio-binder.

The published EPD may be found here

Read more about our research within the construction sector here

12.03.2024

In this literature study, our senior researchers Ingunn Saur Modahl and Hanne Lerche Raadal have examined how different carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) routes perform environmentally. The study shows that CCU systems where CO2 is mineralised (trapped as a mineral) and used to replace cement have the best climate profile, and that these systems have a better climate performance than systems where CO2 is stored only (CCS).

Direct use of captured CO2, for example in greenhouses, also seems to be beneficial. For systems capturing CO2 for production of fuels and chemicals the results are diverging and dependent on a set of preconditions. The main issue for these systems is the large amount of electricity needed to transform the captured CO2. The study shows that production of CCU fuels or chemicals can be a good way of transforming and storing renewable electricity in cases of ‘electricity lock-in’, for example if substituting fossil electricity generation is not possible due to transmission line capacity, or in the future when fossil electricity production is less relevant. In all other cases, the electricity needed for transforming CO2 into fuels or chemicals should rather be used to substitute fossil electricity sources.

The study has focused on finding reliable and quality assured Life Cycle Assessment-based results for climate change and use of resources. Recommended methodology regarding system boundaries, the use of system expansion to solve multifunctionality and the inclusion of reference systems has been in focus when searching for literature.

The researchers have aimed for making a factual basis in this debated topic, and hope that the study can give input to further research and political priorities for the reduction of climate change burdens and use of recources. Read the full report here

This report is a delivery in the ‘CCUS Verdiskapingspotensialet – næringsutvikling og innovasjon’ project by CCUS Norway for the Viken region.

11.03.2024

Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) holds its 26th European LCA symposium in Gothenburg October 21 – 23 this year. The theme of this year’s symposium is «Making LCA Meaningful: Good Data, Better Models, Sustainable Decisions” and we have two sessions to which we invite contributions:

3.03 – Nordic Collaboration in LCA Development and Application Over 35 Years – Past and Future Perspectives

In this session, with a Nordic panel, we want to focus on experiences with and future opportunities for Nordic collaboration in LCA, e.g. collaborative efforts in LCA data management, projects in areas of common Nordic interests, e.g. energy systems, recycling systems, transport and mobility, marine sector and marine pollution, land use and biodiversity, etc. We also want to explore whether there is something called “a Nordic approach”?

4.04 – LCA of Digitalization, ICT and AI

Submissions that address and provide recommendations related to methodological challenges while considering direct and/or indirect impacts are highly suited for this session. Examples of expected case study areas for submissions include LCAs of currently fast-growing digital technologies, such as AI and the Internet of Things, and LCAs of software.

Abstract deadline May 22nd!

For more information about the conference and our sessions, see:

https://www.setac.org/discover-events/topical-events/setac-europe-26th-lca-symposium/programme/scope-of-the-symposium.html
11.03.2024

The researchers Erik Svanes and Hannen Møller, along with Professor Anne Kjersti Uhlen from NMBU, have published an article regarding the environmental impact of increasing the production of peas, beans, and rapeseed in Norway and using these to replace other protein sources, particularly red meat.

The results show that a significant environmental benefit can be achieved by such a transition, in addition to Norway becoming more self-sufficient in protein food and experiencing lower pressure on agricultural land. Furthermore, such a shift would lead to more Norwegians following dietary recommendations.  

Denne gevinsten kan oppnås uten en stor omlegging av kostholdet. Andelen animalsk protein i plantescenariet synker bare 6 % prosentpoeng, fra 73 til 67 %.

See the publication here

08.03.2024

Promoting equal opportunities for men and women at work is in line with the goal number 5 “gender equality” in the UN's Sustainable Development Goal Agenda .

Gender equality can be implemented in sustainability assessments by performing a social life cycle assessmen (S-LCA). This makes it possible to evaluate how organizations work to promote gender equality and prevent discrimination against employees.

To assess whether women and men have equal opportunities, we may use these indicators:

  • The proportion of women who work in a specific sector.
  • The gender wage gap
  • The actions taken by an organization to increase staff diversity and promote equal opportunities.


For example, in the EU funded project RoBUTCHER recently concluded, we assessed the potential social consequences that the introduction of an autonomous robotic system can have on the gender equality in the pork processing sector when replacing the conventional slaughter and linear cutting process based on manual labour. We found out that when it comes to the proportion of women in the pig meat sector, the women are strongly underrepresented in this sector, because of manual and physically heavy work. However, with automation, the way of working will change, becoming significantly less physically demanding and thus opening more opportunities for women. The robots developed in the project will require different qualifications and most likely a different educational background for the butchers than a traditional one has today. During the activity of focus group interviews the participants answered that they believed that women would get more job opportunities with the introduction of autonomous robotic system such RoBUTCHER.

This does not mean that it will be easy to increase the proportion of women in the pig abattoirs. For example, education in robotics and engineering will become more relevant for a butcher employed in an automated slaughterhouse.

Today, there is a low share of women in the abattoir, mainly because the work is physically demanding. This can change with more widespread use of automation, but one must be careful that a larger share of women will be recruited in the automated abattoir. It will be important that the meat processing sector think about actions for promoting gender equality at early stage to avoid maintaining the imbalance of genders.

Read more about «Social performance and impact assessment of an Autonomous Robotic System (ARS) for meat processing»

Read about «Equal opportunities in the butchery industry»

20.02.2024

Summer 2023, the Norwegian Government announced that at least one billion Norwegian kroner will be allocated for research on artificial intelligence (AI). Last week, the board of the Norwegian Research Council decided that the AI billion will be used to establish four to six research centers.

Increased use of AI can lead to significant societal changes. But how can we ensure that the changes contribute to sustainable development? The use of life cycle assessment enables weighting the potential benefits against the burdens.

The development and use of AI models involve processing large amounts of data. To achieve this, data centers consisting of numerous servers must be established. Data centers consume large amounts of energy and water for operation and cooling. The digital infrastructure will consist of electronic products containing critical raw materials (CRMs). These are scarce resources, and there is a risk that access may be limited in the future.

In the Norwegian Climate Committee 2050's Report: "Transition to Low Emissions – Pathways for Climate Policy Towards 2050," it is recommended that all decisions must be based on the understanding that all resources are scarce in the development towards a low-emission society. This includes electricity, land, metals, and minerals. While the AI initiative has the potential to contribute to resource optimization within certain areas, it will also exert significant pressure on all these resources.

At NORSUS we believe that parts of the AI billion should be allocated to analyses that can contribute to decision support regarding which areas of society it may be sensible to prioritize the development of AI services. It will be important to assess a broad range of environmental and social impact categories. Life cycle methodology is well-suited for conducting such assessments.

Read more about what NORSUS is working on within AI and digitalization here

19.02.2024

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in quantifying the impact of biodiversity within Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Various frameworks and studies have emerged, such as those by de Baan, UNEP-SETAC, and Chaudhary et al., aiming to address biodiversity impact assessment in LCA. It's essential for a method to be applicable across different scales, from the farm level to the global scale, and to differentiate between agricultural intensities. This is particularly important when assessing organic agricultural products, as organic systems tend to exhibit higher species richness at the field level compared to conventional systems.

Felles egenskaper blant disse biodiversitetsvurderingsmetodene inkluderer bruk av artsmangfold som en primær indikator, med noen metoder som inkluderer sårbarhetsindekser. Karakteriseringsfaktorer er tilgjengelige for arealbruk og transformasjon, og vurderingen kan gjennomføres på globalt, regionalt eller lokalt nivå. Biodiversity Damage Potential (BDP) er en vanlig brukt påvirkningsindikator. Noen LCA-metoder, som ILCD/ReCiPe-metoden, knytter BDP til arealbruk, uttrykt som Potential Disappeared Fraction (PDF). Andre knytter det til artstap per kvadratmeter. Referansearealbruk, vanligvis «halvnaturlig,» spiller en betydelig rolle i disse vurderingene.

However, many existing methods are limited in their scope and applicability. They often focus on specific geographical regions or taxonomy groups, making it challenging to assess biodiversity impacts comprehensively.

At the global level, there are good biodiversity assessment methods, but they often fail to distinguish between different production forms, such as pasture/feed concentrates or conventional/organic farming. The method proposed by Chaudhary and Brooks (2018) has gained attention as it meets criteria for quantifying biodiversity in LCA, including global applicability and consideration of production intensity. This method provides characterization factors for potential biodiversity loss across various ecoregions, covering multiple taxa and land use intensities. Data sources include global land use intensity maps, WWF Wildfinder database, and IUCN red list habitat classifications.

While this method is well-suited for ecoregion-level assessments, it may not be adapted for local assessments or distinguishing between conventional and integrated pest management. This limitation has prompted discussions on the choice of impact assessment methods in LCA studies, as different methods can yield varying results.

For assessing the impact of agricultural management practices, several methods have been proposed, including SALCA-BD, Lindner et al., Meier et al., and Knudsen et al. These methods consider factors like nitrogen input in fertilizers, pesticide use, crop diversity, and landscape structure. The SALCA-BD method, for example, assesses impacts on various indicator species groups and rates management options on a scale from 1 to 5.

Natural and semi-natural pastures play a crucial role in promoting biodiversity, as moderate grazing maintains species richness and composition. Grazing benefits smaller, opportunistic species, and the mosaic structure created by different biotopes in pastures fosters diversity. Grazing animals' activities, such as trampling, seed dispersal, and manure deposition, further contribute to biodiversity.

In Northern European conditions, there is a scarcity of specific biodiversity assessment methods, as most existing methods are validated for other regions. The choice of a method depends on the study's goals and scope, and some methods are better suited for global or regional assessments, while others may work for specific product systems.

In conclusion, biodiversity impact assessment in Life Cycle Assessment is a complex and evolving field. While there are several methods available, each with its strengths and limitations, it's essential to choose the right approach that aligns with the goals and scope of the study. These methods play a critical role in helping us understand and quantify the environmental impact of our agricultural and production systems on biodiversity, paving the way for more sustainable practices.

References:

Chaudhary, A., & Brooks, T. M. (2018). Land Use Intensity-Specific Global Characterization Factors to Assess Product Biodiversity Footprints. Environmental Science & Technology, 52(9), 5094- 5104. doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b05570

Chaudhary, A., Verones, F., de Baan, L., & Hellweg, S. (2015). Quantifying Land Use Impacts on Biodiversity: Combining Species–Area Models and Vulnerability Indicators. Environmental Science & Technology, 49(16), 9987-9995. doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b02507

de Baan, L., Alkemade, R., & Koellner, T. (2013). Land use impacts on biodiversity in LCA: a global approach. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 18(6), 1216-1230. doi:10.1007/s11367-012-0412-0 de Baan, L., Mutel, C. L., Curran, M., Hellweg, S., & Koellner, T. (2013). Land Use in Life Cycle Assessment: Global Characterization Factors Based on Regional and Global Potential Species Extinction. Environmental Science & Technology, 47(16), 9281-9290. doi:10.1021/es400592q

Knudsen, M. T., Hermansen, J. E., Cederberg, C., Herzog, F., Vale, J., Jeanneret, P., . . . Dennis, P. (2017). Characterization factors for land use impacts on biodiversity in life cycle assessment based on direct measures of plant species richness in European farmland in the ‘Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forest’ biome. Science of The Total Environment, 580, 358-366. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.11.172

Lindner, J. P., Fehrenbach, H., Winter, L., Bloemer, J., & Knuepffer, E. (2019). Valuing Biodiversity in Life Cycle Impact Assessment. Sustainability, 11(20). doi:10.3390/su11205628

Meier, M., Siegrist, F., Drapela, T., Pluschke, H., Pfiffner, L., & Stolze, M. (2015). Schlussbericht. Entwicklung Einer Wirkungsabschätzungsmethode Für Biodiversität. In (pp. pp. 7–78.). Frick, Switzerland: FiBL Forschungsinstitut für Biologischen Landbau.

This text has been generated by Chat GPT based on the report Biodiversity in LCA (Møller, H., Woodhouse, A. and Joensue, K. (2021) https://norsus.no/wp-content/uploads/NordPEF_Biodiversity-in-LCA.pdf?v=1 , and quality controlled by Hanne Møller and Anna Woodhouse.