Life cycle assessment as a decision tool in local waste management? A french case study

It is now a bit more than a decade that LCA is being used as a decision making tool in waste management, in France and other European countries. Among the different tools available for environmental assessment, LCA is expected to fit particularly well the demand for global and exhaustive environmental evaluation of waste management scenarios. While specialised waste LCA tools already exist on the market, the adequate adaptation of the methodology to this particular field is still under discussion.

Further Authors:
K. Schlierf - ENGEES, France
R. Barbier - ENGEES, France
C. Beurois -Médiation & Environnement, France

One open question is here how to achieve a “good” integration of LCA results into the decision making process between multi-criteria analysis and simplification. Objectives: This communication addresses the integration of LCA results into decision making in waste management. It gives evidence of a case study where non-aggregated LCA results were fed into decision making, in an early stage planning process with stakeholder implication. The case has been selected as a particular rich opportunity for studying the question whether and how LCA may be a help in decision making in local waste management. Following the LCA from the very motivation of use to the final decision, we analyse how the multi-criteria character of LCA and its results is fit into the process. Methods: Our research results have been obtained through a case study, selected from a previous inventory of applications of LCA and similar tools in French waste management. The study is based on a total of ten interviews with the different stakeholders involved, as well as in-depth analysis of documentation on the decision making process and of the LCA. Interpretation of the results was carried out through interdisciplinary dialogue between researchers in LCA methodology and social scientists. Results and discussion: The integration of LCA into the decision making process happened in different spheres (a sphere of external expertise, an internal decision sphere, a restricted stakeholder sphere and a wider one). LCA has been recognized by all actors as an appropriate tool thanks to its normalized nature. Accordingly, during and shortly after the period of external expertise, LCA results were discussed side by side with other (technical and economic) elements of multi-criteria analysis. The appropriation and comprehension of the non-aggregated LCA results were rather high, also within the stakeholder sphere. Supporting preconditions showed here to be the academic and professional background of the actors and the still reduced size of the stakeholder group. However, rather general LCA results due to early use in the planning phase mostly showed that all scenarios had their advantages and inconveniences. So, while LCA contributed in the eyes of decision makers to a solid decision, this very decision had in fact to be based on other criteria. Moreover, results appeared to concerned stakeholders quite trivial, in contrast to more tangible evidence on existing sites obtained through bio-monitoring and alike. A turning point in the acceptance of LCA was the moment of transformation of the results of external expertise to a synthetic document, integrating all criteria finally to be taken into account in the decision. This document was supposed to represent a consensus within the restricted stakeholder sphere, and was employed as a means for translating the process to the wider public sphere. Yet, the integration of certain criteria judged by stakeholders as “political” ones reduced the credibility and thus interest of the entire exercise for these stakeholders. They abandoned the scene of multi-criteria assessment, the political process was displaced to another scene. So, multi-criteria LCA seemed to offer a basis for discussion on environmental aspects of the scenarios, at least during some time. However, its influence on the final decision was rather a non-influence, showing that the decision had to be taken on other criteria. In fact, the normalized nature of LCA, considered by the actors a strength in a politically charged decision, showed to be at the same time a means for the decision maker for making the decision non-contestable at least in environmental terms.

Copyright: © European Compost Network ECN e.V.
Quelle: Orbit 2012 (Juni 2012)
Seiten: 6
Preis inkl. MwSt.: € 6,00
Autor: Dr Jacques Mery
Dr. Lynda Aissani

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