Coupling material circularity indicators and life cycle based indicators: A proposal to advance the assessment of circular economy strategies at the product level

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Abstract

The debate on the identification of the most suited metrics for circular economy (CE) is open, no consensus has been reached yet on what CE indicators at product level should measure, which creates a subjective methodological framework for assessing CE strategies. In this study, we demonstrate that by coupling different types of indicators via Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) it is possible to deal with conflicting situations where the selection of the best alternative can be biased by the choice of the metric. We use a beer packaging case, by simulating a situation where a company is interested in comparing the performances of different packaging from a CE perspective. We consider eight different beer packaging alternatives in two geographical contexts (United Kingdom and India). Two sets of indicators are coupled via MCDA: i) material circularity based- indicators, namely Material Reutilization Score and Material Circularity Indicator, and ii) a selection of life cycle based- indicators relevant for beer, i.e. climate change, abiotic resource depletion, acidification, particulate matter and water consumption. The results obtained by the application of the TOPSIS (Technique for Order by Similarity to Ideal Solution) method show that the different sets of indicators can be integrated and conflicts among them can be resolved. Overall, the application of different weighting scenarios does not change the ranking of the alternatives, thus confirming that the results are stable. Therefore, our proposal of coupling material circularity indicators with LCA indicators via MCDA can advance the assessment of CE strategies at the product level.
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The debate on the identification of the most suited metrics for circular economy (CE) is open, no consensus has been reached yet on what CE indicators at product level should measure, which creates a subjective methodological framework for assessing CE strategies. In this study, we demonstrate that by coupling different types of indicators via Multi Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) it is possible to deal with conflicting situations where the selection of the best alternative can be biased by the choice of the metric. We use a beer packaging case, by simulating a situation where a company is interested in comparing the performances of different packaging from a CE perspective. We consider eight different beer packaging alternatives in two geographical contexts (United Kingdom and India). Two sets of indicators are coupled via MCDA: i) material circularity based- indicators, namely Material Reutilization Score and Material Circularity Indicator, and ii) a selection of life cycle based- indicators relevant for beer, i.e. climate change, abiotic resource depletion, acidification, particulate matter and water consumption. The results obtained by the application of the TOPSIS (Technique for Order by Similarity to Ideal Solution) method show that the different sets of indicators can be integrated and conflicts among them can be resolved. Overall, the application of different weighting scenarios does not change the ranking of the alternatives, thus confirming that the results are stable. Therefore, our proposal of coupling material circularity indicators with LCA indicators via MCDA can advance the assessment of CE strategies at the product level.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Volume140
Pages (from-to)305-312
Number of pages8
ISSN0921-3449
DOI
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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