Covid-19: What is Wrong with the Life Cycle Assessment?

Covid-19: What is Wrong with the Life Cycle Assessment?

What is Wrong with the Life Cycle Assessments in the Fashion Industry?

Disposable products are at the frontline of the coronavirus crisis sparking a debate around life cycle assessment. 

What's Life Cycle Assessment?

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a cradle-to-grave analysis technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product’s life.

In the case of textile, it evaluates the environmental impacts from raw material extraction, through fibre processing, textile manufacture, distribution and use, to disposal or recycling.

Environmental impact is notoriously difficult to quantify.

The idea behind LCA is to act as a shared measuring stick to drive industry or policy toward sustainability. Yet rather than generate consensus, often they sow the seeds of discord.

Loose methodological standards have resulted in studies plagued with inconsistencies.

It’s not uncommon for two LCA studies claiming the same objective to yield vastly different results.

Reusable vs Disposable Products

In light of this, some researchers argue the time has come for an open conversation regarding the widespread misapplications of life cycle assessment, particularly on the subject of reusable versus disposable, and how to prevent them.

Single-use items have become popular in the era of Covid-19. 

There are safety concerns pushing companies in the direction of disposable products that are harmful to the environment.

Balancing the sustainability of rapid fashion, disposable gloves and masks is even more difficult now.

Recycling these products is becoming a less viable option as end markets for recycled content shrivel. 

Fashion brands are not getting a full picture of LCA, only telling half of the story around circularity. They mostly emphasis about the design piece, but not enough what’s the impact after use.

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  • David Regan

    I wonder how many people are throwing masks :(

  • Randy C

    We pretend to care about the environment. However deep inside we only care about us not the environment.

  • Elise Wong

    Sustainability is gone temporarily

  • Kathy Rodgers

    I only buy sustainable products except face masks and hand sanitisers

  • John Grover

    Good thoughts Susanna

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Susanna Koelblin

Circularity & Fashion Expert

Susanna is Business Development Manager Textiles at Eastman Chemical Company. From blockchain to recycled swimwear, she talks about emerging technologies and sustainability issues in the fashion industry.

   

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