“The experts beyond the project” Chapter two: Professor Umberto Arena

Andrea Martos

Our second External Expert comes from the University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”. The University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli” has about 940 teachers and researchers, more than 970 people of administrative and technical staff, with about 27,000 undergraduate students, and 340 PhD students. The Department has 65 teachers and researchers, 23 people of administrative and technical staff, about 2,400 undergraduate students, and 72 PhD students.

In particular, at the Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies of the University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli” is active since 2000 in a laboratory of Environmental Sustainability of Processes and Services, where researchers utilize accurate assessment tools, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Material and Substance Flow Analysis (MFA/SFA), with the support of up-to-date software packages and data banks.

Umberto Arena (PhD) is a full professor in “Solid waste management” and “Life Cycle Assessment of Industrial Processes” fields. Furthermore, he is Co-Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier’s Waste Management journal since 2017. He is a visiting Professor in the important international centres the Tongji University of Shangai, Nanyang Technologic University of Singapore and Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research. He combines his academic work with his labour as a scientific supervisor and team leader in European projects, and consultant for companies.

From the REVOLUTION project, we are grateful to have his experience and career on board. Last week, he answered some questions for us. Do you want to know more about it?

Good morning, Professor Arena, thanks for your time to answer our questions. From your point of view, which are the key challenges and opportunities for the Life cycle assessment in REVOLUTION?

“Life Cycle Assessment, in its different versions focused on environmental (E-LCA), economic (LCC) and social (S-LCA) aspects, it is the more reliable and suitable tool to measure the performance and circularity of industrial processes along their life cycle. The REVOLUTION project could greatly help in implementing quantified and comparative analyses of alternative options for the treatment of EoL waste, but also identifying the areas where innovative solutions can give a crucial contribution. In particular, the REVOLUTION project could provide an updated database of environmental and economic burdens related to EoL management, which could become a reliable reference for companies involved in the related supply chains.

According to your extensive experience, which will be the most critical step in the LCA development for this project (use, transport, EoL…)?

I believe that an LCA focused on the EoL waste management has to take into account the existing lack of reliable input data. This aspect should be carefully considered and appropriately approached. REVOLUTION project could provide an updated database of environmental and economic burdens related to main topic, which could become a reliable reference for companies involved in the related supply chains.

From the methodological point of view, I suggest that some specific aspects should be adequately approached: in particular, in the evaluation of avoided burdens related to the proposed circular solutions it would be important to reliably quantify the substitutability factor (that is, the functionality provided by the recovered resource compared to that of the conventional one) of the obtained recycled products as well as the TRL (technology readiness level) of the proposed new processes and technologies.

Finally, how will the LCC/LCA evolution in the world support a better understanding of product/processes? And, how do you see REVOLUTION’s position for industry in this evolution?

LCA and LCA could give an important contribution to maximizing, monitoring and control the true sustainability of products (goods and services). Their utilization and an easy communication of results obtained by reliable LCA studies could become crucial for industrial companies, control bodies and single citizens. The possibility to avoid the shifting of burdens or to overlook crucial negative impacts occurring in a specific stage of the product’s life are crucial features of LCA/LCC, and give them an important role in the evolution towards a circular society.

In this framework, the REVOLUTION project could help a lot, particularly in improving knowledge (I mean the scientific and technical competence and the general approach) in the design for recycling and design from recycling.