John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Beyond the throwaway society: A life cycle based assessment of the environmental benefit of reuse


In the context of 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. In order 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 basis for calculating environmental impact through LCA. A case study on a second hand shop is presented and the avoided impacts quantified. Inventory data were taken both from literature, and directly from sales and survey submitted to customers. The results are presented highlighting: i) for each product category, the average avoided impacts for one unit of reused product considered and ii) for the overall activities of the second hand shop, the cumulative avoided impacts in one year. In the case study, the higher contribution to avoided impacts comes from the apparel sector, due to the high amount of items sold, and followed by the furniture sector, due to the high amount of environmental impacts avoided by the reuse of each single item. Editor's Note: This paper represents 1 of 10 papers in the special series “LCA Case Study Symposium 2013,” which was generated from the 19th SETAC LCA Case Study Symposium “LCA in market research and policy: Harmonisation beyond standardization,” held in November 2013, in Rome, Italy. This collection of invited papers reflect the purpose of the symposium and focus on how LCA can support the decision‐making process at all levels, i.e., industry and policy contexts, and how LCA results can be efficiently communicated and be used to support market strategies. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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