Progress on a new method for assessing resource use in LCA

There is agreement in the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) community that current resource assessment methodologies have limitations when it comes to informing materials selection. Currently, the European Union’s Product/Organisational Environmental Footprint method (PEF/OEF) contains an interim solution, while calling for further method development to provide a long-term solution. As a result, the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has been working with the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and other leading Life Cycle Impact Assessment experts to develop a new method for assessing resource use in LCA.ICMM launched its Abiotic Resource Potential (ARP) project in June 2019 to operationalise a resource use impact assessment method based on the concept of dissipation by the end of 2020. To work effectively, the new method must meet several criteria. Important features, both from the inventory and impact assessment sides, are that it must represent the resource use issue well, and be based on internationally accepted science. At the same time, the new method must be ready for use in the short term. This requires good understanding of data needs, approaches to fill data gaps, and identification of boundaries that must be applied for the method to be workable in PEF/OEF by end of 2020.

A recent webinar series hosted by the project enabled the team to present its findings to date and engage in open discussions with stakeholders regarding the method, its shortcomings, and strengths. The webinars included presentations from other experts in the field, including Lauran van Oers from Leiden University, representing the EU’s SUPRIM project, and Luca Zampori of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. Overall, learnings from the webinars included identification of project needs:

  • to develop and share the link between inventory and impact assessment with stakeholders;
  • to address substance coverage (data availability challenges) on both the inventory and impact assessment sides;
  • to consider uncertainties, and develop normalisation references; and,
  • develop of a tiered approach to make the method applicable to existing inventory data sets.

We encourage all interested stakeholders to reach out and get involved. We will hold the next series of webinars in Fall 2020 to review advances and gather additional input from stakeholders. Please reach out Johannes Drielsma drielsma@euromines.be(link sends e-mail) (Euromines Deputy Director and ICMM ARP project Steering Committee Co-Chair) for updates, to provide input, or to get involved more directly.

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