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Methodology for combined use of data envelopment analysis and life cycle assessment applied to food waste management

Cristóbal, Jorge, Limleamthong, Phantisa, Manfredi, Simone, Guillén-Gosálbez, Gonzalo
Journal of cleaner production 2016 v.135 pp. 158-168
anaerobic digestion, case studies, composting, ecological footprint, environmental impact, environmental indicators, food waste, life cycle assessment
A considerable amount of food is wasted every year around the world. This makes it necessary to manage and treat such food waste while trying to minimize impacts to the environment. The most common options for treating food waste include anaerobic digestion, composting, incineration and landfilling. The aims of this paper are (1) to develop a 3-stage methodology which capitalizes on the DEA + LCA framework proposed recently in the literature and combines data envelopment analysis, life cycle assessment and process retrofit into a single consistent framework; and (2) the application of this methodology to the assessment and retrofit of a number of technological options for food waste management. In essence, it starts by assessing the management options with respect to 12 environmental indicators (recommended in the European Commission Product Environmental Footprint method). With this information at hand, data envelopment analysis is applied to identify efficient and inefficient options. For the latter group, improvement targets are calculated, which are then used in the last stage of the methodology to guide retrofit actions to be implemented in the inefficient options so as to improve them. The capabilities of this methodology are illustrated by means of a case study that analyses 6 management options in an average European context. Results show that 4 of the 6 options are deemed efficient, while the other 2 are considered inefficient. A contribution analysis of the life cycle assessment results in the inefficient options is finally used to link the estimated reduction targets in every impact category with the specific processes of the food waste management options.