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Beyond The Throwaway Society: A Life Cycle-based Assessment Of The Environmental Benefit Of Reuse.

V. Castellani, Serenella Sala, N. Mirabella
Published 2015 · Engineering, Medicine

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In the context of a circular economy, sustainable consumption is often seen as the antithesis of current consumption patterns, which have led to the definition of the so-called throwaway society. Reuse may provide a preferred alternative to other waste management options, because it promotes resource efficiency and may significantly reduce environmental impacts. To appraise the environmental benefits related to reuse of goods, a methodology adopting life cycle assessment (LCA) has been developed. A standardized procedure has been developed, identifying reference products within product category subject to reuse, and collecting reliable inventory data as a basis for calculating environmental impact through LCA. A case study on a second-hand shop is presented, and the avoided impacts are quantified. Inventory data were taken both from the literature and directly from sales and surveys submitted to customers. The results are presented, highlighting: 1) for each product category, the average avoided impacts for 1 unit of reused product considered; and 2) for the overall activities of the second-hand shop, the cumulative avoided impacts in 1 yr. In the case study, the higher contribution to avoided impacts comes from the apparel sector, due to the high amount of items sold, followed by the furniture sector, because of the high amount of environmental impacts avoided by the reuse of each single item.
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