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Pfister S.,ETH Zurich | Pfister S.,Aveny GmbH | Vionnet S.,Quantis International | Levova T.,Ecoinvent Center | Humbert S.,Quantis International
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2015

Purpose: Water footprinting and the assessment of water use in life cycle assessment have become of major interest in sustainability assessments. Various initiatives for combining water resource issues with consumption of products and services have been initiated in the last decade. However, comprehensive databases fulfilling the requirements for addressing these issues have been lacking and are necessary to facilitate efficient and consistent assessments of products and services. To this purpose, ecoinvent focused on integrating appropriate water use data into version 3, since previously water use data has been inconsistently reported and some essential flows were missing. This paper describes the structure of the water use data in ecoinvent, how the data has been compiled and the way it can be used for water footprinting. Methods: The main changes required for proper assessment of water use are the addition of environmental and product flows in order to allow a water balance over each process. This is in accordance with the strict paradigm in ecoinvent 3 to focus on mass balances, which requires the inclusion of water contents of all products (also for e.g. waste water flows), as well as emissions of water to soil, air and various water bodies. Water inputs from air (e.g. rainwater harvesting) is introduced but is not yet used by any activity. Results and discussion: Ecoinvent version 3.1 consistently includes the relevant flows to address water use in life cycle assessment (LCA) and calculate water footprints on the product level for most processes including uncertainty information. Although some problems regarding data quality and spatial resolution remain, this is an important step forward and can limit efforts for detailed data collection to the most sensitive processes in the product system. With the combination of data on water use and emissions to water for each process, concentration and corresponding water classes can also be calculated and assessed with existing impact assessment methods. Conclusions: This comprehensive collection of water use data on the process level facilitates the proper assessment of water use within an LCA and water footprints beyond agricultural production. Especially in LCA, but also in tools for eco-design and specific water footprint, this data is essential and leads to a cost-efficient way of assessing consumption choices and product design decisions with full transparency. It enhances the effectiveness of investing in data collection by performing sensitivity analyses using ecoinvent data to identify the most relevant flows and processes. © 2015 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg Source

Kounina A.,Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne | Margni M.,Quantis | Margni M.,Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal | Bayart J.-B.,Quantis | And 17 more authors.
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Year: 2013

Purpose: In recent years, several methods have been developed which propose different freshwater use inventory schemes and impact assessment characterization models considering various cause-effect chain relationships. This work reviewed a multitude of methods and indicators for freshwater use potentially applicable in life cycle assessment (LCA). This review is used as a basis to identify the key elements to build a scientific consensus for operational characterization methods for LCA. Methods: This evaluation builds on the criteria and procedure developed within the International Reference Life Cycle Data System Handbook and has been adapted for the purpose of this project. It therefore includes (1) description of relevant cause-effect chains, (2) definition of criteria to evaluate the existing methods, (3) development of sub-criteria specific to freshwater use, and (4) description and review of existing methods addressing freshwater in LCA. Results and discussion: No single method is available which comprehensively describes all potential impacts derived from freshwater use. However, this review highlights several key findings to design a characterization method encompassing all the impact pathways of the assessment of freshwater use and consumption in life cycle assessment framework as the following: (1) in most of databases and methods, consistent freshwater balances are not reported either because output is not considered or because polluted freshwater is recalculated based on a critical dilution approach; (2) at the midpoint level, most methods are related to water scarcity index and correspond to the methodological choice of an indicator simplified in terms of the number of parameters (scarcity) and freshwater uses (freshwater consumption or freshwater withdrawal) considered. More comprehensive scarcity indices distinguish different freshwater types and functionalities. (3) At the endpoint level, several methods already exist which report results in units compatible with traditional human health and ecosystem quality damage and cover various cause-effect chains, e.g., the decrease of terrestrial biodiversity due to freshwater consumption. (4) Midpoint and endpoint indicators have various levels of spatial differentiation, i.e., generic factors with no differentiation at all, or country, watershed, and grid cell differentiation. Conclusions: Existing databases should be (1) completed with input and output freshwater flow differentiated according to water types based on its origin (surface water, groundwater, and precipitation water stored as soil moisture), (2) regionalized, and (3) if possible, characterized with a set of quality parameters. The assessment of impacts related to freshwater use is possible by assembling methods in a comprehensive methodology to characterize each use adequately. © 2012 The Author(s). Source

Boesch M.E.,Aveny GmbH | Vadenbo C.,ETH Zurich | Saner D.,Swiss Post | Huter C.,City of Zurich | Hellweg S.,ETH Zurich
Waste Management | Year: 2014

A process model of municipal solid waste incinerators (MSWIs) and new technologies for metal recovery from combustion residues was developed. The environmental impact is modeled as a function of waste composition as well as waste treatment and material recovery technologies. The model includes combustion with a grate incinerator, several flue gas treatment technologies, electricity and steam production from waste heat recovery, metal recovery from slag and fly ash, and landfilling of residues and can be tailored to specific plants and sites (software tools can be downloaded free of charge). Application of the model to Switzerland shows that the treatment of one tonne of municipal solid waste results on average in 425kg CO2-eq. generated in the incineration process, and 54kg CO2-eq. accrue in upstream processes such as waste transport and the production of operating materials. Downstream processes, i.e. residue disposal, generates 5kg CO2-eq. Savings from energy recovery are in the range of 67 to 752kg CO2-eq. depending on the assumptions regarding the substituted energy production, while the recovery of metals from slag and fly ash currently results in a net saving of approximately 35kg CO2-eq. A similar impact pattern is observed when assessing the MSWI model for aggregated environmental impacts (ReCiPe) and for non-renewable resource consumption (cumulative exergy demand), except that direct emissions have less and no relevance, respectively, on the total score. The study illustrates that MSWI plants can be an important element of industrial ecology as they provide waste disposal services and can help to close material and energetic cycles. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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