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PW06 Life-Cycle Assessment
Exhibit Hall
8:00 AM - Wednesday

(PW091) The importance of system boundaries for LCA on large material flows of vegetable oils.

Schmidt, J1, 1 Aalborg University, Aalborg, Demnark

ABSTRACT- The environmental effect of globalization has been discussed broadly in the last decades. In the European Environmental Agency's third assessment of Europe's Environment they conclude that the EU has stabilized its own resource use at the expense of increased resource use outside the EU. On this background I argue that there is a need for life cycle assessments of different patterns of global production and consumption. This article discusses the setting of system boundaries of such "global" LCAs on large material flows in the case of agriculture. The discussion of system boundaries in LCA has been in focus in recent years. The two main approaches to the setting of system boundaries are; traditional (attributional) system boundaries versus marginal (consequential) system boundaries. The latter implies that a number of processes in the product life cycle will not be affected, because of different constraints. Instead the affected processes must be identified. This article investigates the effects of the two different approaches. Empirically, the point of departure is taken in the case of production of vegetable oils - palm oil from Malaysia and rapeseed oil from the EU. These two commodities represent a global and a local product system that can supply the EU with fat. The import share and amount of supply of vegetable oil to the EU has increased significantly since the mid-nineties. The main part of the increase in imported oil can be ascribed to import of palm oil. It is concluded that the results of the LCA heavily depend on the setting of system boundaries. Three issues are identified as most important: energy (average or marginal), allocation of co-products and assumed alternative use of farmland. On this background the article gives some conclusions on how to deal with the selections and assumptions that have to be considered in such LCAs.

Key words: palm oil, system boundaries, rapeseed oil, LCA


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