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Circular economy in the agro-industry: Integrated environmental assessment of dairy products

TitleCircular economy in the agro-industry: Integrated environmental assessment of dairy products
Publication TypeArticolo su Rivista peer-reviewed
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsOliveira, M., Cocozza A., Zucaro Amalia, Santagata R., and Ulgiati S.
JournalRenewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

Bio-circular strategies to improve production and consumption can be the answer to decrease the current environmental pressure of the dairy sector. Environmental impacts are related to the extensive fodder production with intense use of fertilizers, greenhouse gasses emission from cattle and fossil fuels. To understand and measure the burdens of a dairy production chain (particularly buffalo mozzarella cheese, a specialty of the Campania Region, Italy), the Life Cycle Assessment and Emergy accounting Applied Framework (LEAF) was applied. Many studies evaluated dairy systems using single methods, which are unable to capture all sustainable perspectives. The LEAF evaluation encompasses an Ex-ante LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) to identify the hotspots and suggest feasible improved scenarios of the investigated case study. Followed by EMA (EMergy Accounting) and Ex-post LCA applications, LEAF assures the feasibility of the proposed solutions and verifies the reduction of the environmental burdens towards increased sustainability. Two different scenarios were built based on the identified hotspots (cleaning products and electricity): (i) a technological improvement (dealing with cleaning processes methods), (ii) an eco-efficiency perspective (fossil energy replaced with renewable alternatives). Additionally, viewpoint shifting scenarios based on (iii) different allocation procedures were proposed to discuss crucial methodological issues. Results showed that technological improvements provide the best environmental performance, with lower emissions and better Emergy indicators, and better work conditions. However, the use of a more renewable electricity mix can deliver similar environmental gains. The change of perspective in the last scenario highlighted that multi-output issues should be carefully treated to avoid misleading results. © 2021 Elsevier Ltd


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Citation KeyOliveira2021