Many studies have been conducted for assessing the environmental impacts of organic agriculture. They compare, in general, a few agricultural systems including organic and conventional production. The comparison, however, raises several issues to be clarified from system thinking based on life cycle assessment (LCA). Therefore, this paper reviews applications of LCA to agriculture and presents the state of the art and some difficulties in the current studies. After surveying previous research projects and international conferences on agricultural LCA, applications of LCA to field crop production and horticulture are surveyed. Since the survey reveals the importance of utilizing multiple impact categories due to the existence of trade-offs between, for example, global worming and eutrophication, the relationship between environmental impacts of organic agriculture and impact categories in agricultural LCA is examined using previous LCA of wheat, in which data are gathered from field experiment. In addition, the problem with the selection of functional units is discussed because of the dependence of the results on the selection. The problem brings up a question how to cope with land in agricultural LCA and thus biodiversity and soil quality in agricultural LCA are reviewed. Finally, future research directions are presented for the development of agricultural LCA in Japan.
The life cycle assessment (LCA) method, which evaluates the environmental impacts associated with a product, process or activity during its life cycle by describing its requirements for resource and the emissions, is expected to be highly effective for comprehensive environmental evaluations. An increasing environmental consciousness in society requires action by the animal industry on environmental problems, and evaluation of whole animal production systems from various environmental viewpoints has been required to reduce environmental impacts of animal production systems. Thus, studies about evaluation of using LCA and development of evaluation methods based on the LCA concept for animal production systems have been conducted in recent years. In this paper, we reviewed LCA studies on animal production reported, and furthermore, presented the studies that evaluated beef production and feeds prepared from food residues as examples of our research about environmental impact evaluation of animal production systems. Finally, we described challenges and future works in the research area of LCA for animal production.
It is indispensable to incorporate environmental evaluation into fishery industry to achieve “sustainable production and consumption”. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an important and useful tool to evaluate the environmental effects and potential impacts associated with a product and a service throughout its life span. Up to date, several data have been reported concerning the application of LCA to the fishery industry. Therefore, in this paper, we reviewed these reports so as to expand our knowledge and to develop LCA methodology. Moreover, we mentioned to the perspective and next challenge.
The Food Study Group (FSG), a voluntary-based study group in The Institute of Life Cycle Assessment, Japan, has carried out research and surveys since 2004 to identify the possible directions to sustainable food consumption and production. The members of FSG are from academia, national research institutes, private research institutes, and private food enterprises. FSG had mainly two tasks: (1) life cycle inventory analysis on food products and meals; and (2) determine food values to develop a sustainability indicator for agro-food consumption and production. For the first task, FSG evaluated lifecycle CO2 emission for various agro-food products including grains, meat, and vegetables, and for five different meals that consist of those products as ingredients. A hybrid approach of process LCA and I-O analysis was adopted. The result suggested that the CO2 emissions per kg-product for high protein products (meat, dairy, and fish) tend to be high, followed by high carbohydrate products (rice and wheat). With regard to cooking, boiling and steaming tend to emit more CO2 than stir-frying and deep-frying due to their longer cooking time. For the second task, FSG adopted the concept of eco-efficiency, that is evaluated by comparing a concerning product's service value with its environmental loads. We decided to take life cycle CO2 emission as a representative to environmental load. For product value, we discussed the definition, criteria, and the method to quantify the value of a meal. Further research is underway to improve the method by adopting weighting via consumer survey and aggregation to a single index.
Utilization of various biomass resources as energy is being promoted from the viewpoint of fossil fuel conservation and prevention of global warming. In order to foster its further utilization, it is important to evaluate the energy and environmental burden of biomass from a lifecycle perspective, incorporating upstream and downstream aspects such as cultivation, collection, transformation and use in preparing a comprehensive life cycle inventory (LCI). Indices such as EPR (Energy Payback Ratio) and EPT (Energy Payback Time) are frequently used for this purpose. In this paper, concepts of these indices are explained, and its application to evaluation of various bio-ethanol projects is conducted. Considerable difference (up to about five-fold) in EPR and EPT are found among various evaluation projects, which are attributed to setting range of LCI, setting of parameters, differences of background databases, and treatment of allocation among co-products (cornstarch in the case of corn, bagasse in the case of sugarcane, and lignin in the case of cellulosic resources).
Background, Aim and Scope. Cleaning processes are inevitable for product manufacture and maintenance of product functions. In ordinary metal processing, metal parts are greased to avoid possible friction and confrontation by pressing or cutting. To deal with metal parts with various materials and shapes, suitable chemicals and devices have been selected on a site to site basis. Almost all enterprises with cleaning process are small and medium-sized enterprises(SMEs) in Japan. Each process has plant-specific functions and constraints depended on its cleaning requirement. Chloride compounds have widely been utilized as a cleansing agent because of their inexpensiveness, nonflammability and high capability for precision cleaning. Because the discharge of such chemicals has become an issue, many alternative agents and improved processes have been developed. Available technologies for environmentally benign processes are strongly depended on plant-specific conditions. For the reduction in risks caused by cleaning process, the environmental aspects of cleaning should be assessed appropriately considering plant-specific functions and constraints. This paper aimed to analyze the difference of environmental impacts among metal cleaning processes, which are utilizing chlorinated carbon and hydro carbon, by life cycle assessment(LCA). This analysis enabled discussions of the way how to evaluate and interpret environmental impacts originated in metal cleaning considering plant-specific conditions. Human health impacts were quantified on the basis of the life cycle of cleansing agents. Methods. The inventory data of cleaning processes were acquired through field investigations of plants. The cleaning functions of investigated plants were different from each other. Functional units in LCA should be carefully defined to take into account cleaning requirements appropriately for comparisons of processes. In this paper, "Daily operation" and "Cleaning of unit weight of products" were adopted and compared. Results. The impacts attributable to cleaning process were the largest among the processes in the life cycle of a cleansing agent. Especially, photochemical oxidant creation due to emitted cleansing agent was a dominant contribution to human health impacts. Global warming, air pollution in urban area and toxic chemical emission had the same order of contribution. According to the evaluation results for a specific plant, several actions toward the reduction in emission volume could reduce the total human health in the life cycle of cleansing agents. Although hydro carbon has been regarded as an alternative agent reducing environmental impacts, its result was quite similar to a process using chlorinated agent with well-suitable machine under the plantspecific conditions. Changing the functional unit from "Daily operation" to "Cleaning of unit weight of products" revealed that some plants with small impacts during daily operation have larger human health impacts per unit weight of products than plants with large daily impacts. Discussion. Because the mass of each metal part is considerably small comparing the total throughputs on site, in ordinary product LCA, the inventories associated with metal cleaning might be regarded as trivial loads and can be usually cut off. The obtained results in this paper can be regarded as the hidden impacts in such assessments. Comparing the obtained results with an existing LCA result of product including metal parts, it was revealed that metal cleaning cannot be neglected to evaluate the impacts in product LCA appropriately. If one includes cleaning processes in product LCA, the impacts due to the use of cleansing agent would be recognized and effectively reduced through the supply chain of products. For the sake to achieve such reductions, the cleaning requirements on a process should be defined comprehensively and quantitatively. (View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)