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Advancing environmental assessment of the circular economy: Challenges and opportunities

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
January 15, 2024

The lifecycle assessment (LCA) framework is widely applied to comprehensively evaluate and improve the environmental performance of a circular economy (CE). The advances and application of LCA has been primarily restricted to evaluate the environmental performance of the CE at a micro-level, wherein the CE is implemented for a single product system.

However, the CE can be operationalized at two broader levels: the meso–level (for eco-industrial parks) and the macro-level (for a city, state, or nation). Six methodological challenges emerge when applying LCA to a meso‑ or macro-level CE and remain unaddressed in the existing literature. This includes: selecting a relevant system boundary and functional unit, addressing data paucity and uncertainty, accounting for stakeholder behavior, assessing the trade-offs from renewable energy (RE) use, accounting for manufacturing and technology evolution, and quantifying displacement and rebound. This article proposes potential solutions and research priorities to address the above challenges.

Julien Walzberg
Garvin Heath
Research Areas
Framework, Methods & Tools

Circular economy, Lifecycle assessment, Environmental assessment, Data uncertainty, Meso-level circular economy, Macro-level circular economy

Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Dwarakanath Ravikumar, Gregory A. Keoleian, Julien Walzberg, Garvin Heath, Martin C. Heller, Advancing environmental assessment of the circular economy: Challenges and opportunities, Resources, Conservation & Recycling Advances, Volume 21, 2024. CSS24-03