Recycling eUnit Description

This eUnit is ideally suited for Sustainability Professionals that are managing a Carbon Footprint or LCA project. It is also a good modeling introduction for LCA and Carbon Footprint Professionals.

Modeling recycling is tricky because the system boundary of any one LCA or Carbon Footprint study includes just a portion of a materials many lives. If this is a materials second life, should the study include a portion of the emissions occurring during its first life? For example, should the emissions from drilling oil to make plastic be allocated between all the lives plastic might have, or just the first life? Should the emissions from mining of boxite to make aluminum be assigned just to the first life of the aluminum, or to all the lives?

Also, how do we know which life the material is in? A material like aluminum can have in infinite number of lives. The correct way to model recycling has been extensively discussed over the past two decades. Many approaches have been suggested. In this course we will describe the three most common approaches. Then, using an example of 30% recycled content paper, we will model these three approaches in three different LCA software tools assuming 50% of the paper is recycled at end of life, 40% is landfilled and 10% is incinerated.

Learning Objectives:
  • Explain the source of environmental impacts (costs) in recycling;
  • Explain the two sources of environmental impact reductions (benefits) in recycling;
  • Describe three common methods for model recycling in LCA;
  • Discuss two ways for modeling recycling in the Green House Gas Product Life Cycle Accounting and Reporting Standard.

Approximate time to complete: 1.5 - 2 hours

Cost: $50/year

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