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The application of life cycle thinking in the context of European waste policy

Abstract : As the impetus of life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle thinking (LCT) in waste management policy is increasing, decision makers may face conflicting advice on the potential environmental impacts of competing end-of-life treatment options. This paper presents a critical analysis of the current application of LCA in the context of European waste management policy. This is relevant as the European Commission has highlighted LCT as the way departure of waste streams from the waste hierarchy is to be justified. We build upon a previously presented metaphor of every product casting a shadow of environmental burden to show how waste management decisions are unique in that they are influenced by two sources of knowledge: LCA and the incumbent waste hierarchy. We show the waste hierarchy is based upon several myths that are required by society in order to progress to a common goal of sustainable waste management. We argue that the benefit of LCA lies in its ability to redefine waste management problems. Rather than using LCA to providing an authoritative justification for the best end-of-life treatment option, the life cycle approach should be used to complement these myths that underlie the waste hierarchy.
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https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00760489
Contributor : Nicolas Buclet <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 9:03:05 AM
Last modification on : Friday, March 27, 2020 - 12:50:06 PM

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David Lazarevic, Nicolas Buclet, Nils Brandt. The application of life cycle thinking in the context of European waste policy. Journal of Cleaner Production, Elsevier, 2012, pp.199-207. ⟨10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.01.030⟩. ⟨halshs-00760489⟩

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