Back at the beginning of September, Ecomatters attended the ninth edition of the LCM conference, LCM2019, which was held in Poznan in Poland. The theme of the conference was “Towards sustainable future current challenges and prospects in life cycle management”, it was a great opportunity for us to reconnect with familiar colleagues and network from the LCA field as well as to meet new interesting people and hear about the latest trends and ideas in the LCM world. Moreover, we also had the change to present two of our current projects in different sessions.
Highlights and noteworthy sessions
Different keynote speakers ranging from the Minister for the Entrepreneurship and Technology, from the Managing director of EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology), including scientists and the Director-General for the Environment, spoke at the opening sessions and plenary sessions during the week of the conference. Even though their presentations covered different topics such as legislation and policy, the sustainability of businesses and industry, LCA on a global perspective, a common key message resounded public administration, academy, industry, and other actors need collaboration not in a reactive way but in a co-creative way. This is a message which really relies on the core of what sustainability actually is, and speaks to all of us in order to foster relationships and co-create solutions with partners.
There was also quite a lot of presentations around materials and circularity, where the scarcity of materials was highlighted. This stresses the need for rethinking the way materials are consumed and how designing for recycling is needed, especially given that the EU is the largest consumer of metals and minerals. During a talk by the EIT an important discussion point which is not often heard was brought to the table: “circular economy is the means and not the goal, just as linear economy was not the goal”, this is quite relevant for policymaking, especially when considering that there are over 100 definitions of circular economy. Additionally, discussions around LCA and material circularity assessment (MCA) also took place, where it was discussed how when assessing a system different results are obtained when using MCA and LCA and may contradict each other. It was concluded that both methods are valid and an integrated approach should be used depending on the availability of data, where first an MCA can be done and then an LCA will follow.
Additionally, a recurring topic that was present in this LCM and which was not the case in previous LCM conferences was the problem of marine plastic litter and how it can be assessed within LCA. There were quite a number of presentations around this issue, and as LCA practitioners ourselves we are glad to see that the LCA community is adding to search solutions with these problems. Finally, topics present in the LCA which caught our attention as well were chemical recycling and plastics and digitalization, which fit with 2 of the projects we currently have and presented during the conference.
Ecomatters’ presentations and experience
Ecomatters was proud to have presented in two of the LCM2019 sessions. In the session “Circular economy and Challenges for Life Cycle Management”, one of our colleagues, Susana Tecante, presented work we are presently doing around the topic of chemical recycling. The objective of the project is to assess different chemical recycling (specific for plastic waste) initiatives/start-ups based on their maturity level/environmental impact in a circular economy context considering as focal point the fact that to evaluate chemical recycling initiatives. Since the assessment of the environmental impact on LCA would require a lot of data from the initiative we propose a tool based on a list of critical questions (from an LCA perspective) regarding energy use, product efficiency, etc. as a prerequisite to moving forward towards the quantification of the environmental impact. As a first step to evaluate the environmental impact. Currently, the project is about to conclude and once we have finalized, we will communicate more about it (we have previously written an article with a bit more context for the project).
In the session “Towards Cradle to Cradle – Plastic Product Circularity”, our colleague Natalia Chebaeva presented the work on our eCircular project, emphasizing on the activities we did in 2018 and 2019. During her sessions, learning points on the project and activities were presented along with an overview of the opportunities that digitalization enables for the circularity of plastics, as well as challenges arising from the change in the business models and the implementation of new technologies. Her presentation also made a call for action by showing an eCircular roadmap for the digital transformation of value chains to improve plastic waste prevention and dematerialization.
General atmosphere and enthusiasm around LCM
This LCM2019 conference provided us with a good snapshot of what the LCM community is currently working on and what are the topics and discussion in different areas and with different actors. We definitely enjoyed the overall environment at the conference and the enthusiasm and engagement everyone had, and we are looking forward to seeing the following edition of the LCM taking place in 2021 in Stuttgart.