The cold chain (refrigerated supply chain) preserves the value of perishable products and it is rapidly expanding in China. The environmental impacts of cold chain expansion are of increasing concern but are not well-studied. This study investigated the lifecycle GHG emissions of vegetables, fruit, meat, and aquatic products delivered by the cold chain in China. A lifecycle assessment (LCA) framework based on 1 kg edible product consumed is used. Monte Carlo simulation is applied to characterize the variability of the simulation and sensitivity analysis for 22 parameters are conducted. We found that refrigerated warehouses, the 1st refrigerated transportation, and the retail stage represent more than 50% of post-agriculture cold chain emissions. The results also show that the energy usage of the cold chain constitutes an average of 61% GHG emissions in four fruit/vegetable scenarios, while emissions associated with food losses and wastes are the largest in meat/aquatic scenarios. By accumulating the post-agriculture cold chain GHG emissions, the results show that the cold chain activities can potentially constitute 1-3% of overall emissions in China based on 2018’s level.
CSS Publication Number:
Journal of Cleaner Production
Dong, Yabin, and Shelie A. Miller. (2021) “Assessing the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of perishable food products delivered by the cold chain in China.” Journal of Cleaner Production XX(XX): XX-XX.