Discussions and progress during the last workshop in project about Modeling of recycling

Friday, 27 March, 2020

On Tuesday March 24 the last workshop in the research project Modeling of Recycling was held. The online-meeting gathered 14 life cycle professionals from academia, research institutes, industry and government agencies to discuss further some of the models for recycling and come closer to a consensus on how recycling can be modeled in LCA, The overall aim of the meeting was to discuss around a few different topics, such as circular footprint formula used in the Eu Environmental Footprint and the model cut of plus credit used in the updated standard EN 15804.

The method for modeling material recycling can have a decisive impact on the environmental assessment of products with a high content of recycled material or material that is recycled after use. How recycling should be modeled in LCA has been discussed since the 90’s. The project, led by Tomas Ekvall at IVL Swedish Environmental Institute, aims at continuing the discussions as well as contributing to international harmonization processes such as the international LCA standard and the EU guidelines for Product Environmental Footprint. The project is founded by Swedish Energy Agency through RE:Source and coordinated within Swedish Life Cycle Center. The started in November 2018 and will end in May 2020.

The workshop is the last one during the project and most time was dedicated for discussions, to get closer to consensus of/on how recycling should be modeled in recycling, which has been one of the main goals for the project. The meeting was intense with three topics to discuss.

Three main topics were discussed during the workshop:

  • Allocation LCA vs Consequential LCA and the difference between them and how the different ways of modeling of recycling can either be Allocation LCA or Consequential LCA
  • The “Circular footprint formula” used in EU Environmental Footprint
  • The new standard EN 15804 and the model called “cut-off plus credit”

The circular footprint formula has been discussed during the whole project and to take the consensus process further the meeting picked up the topic once more. One of the project members lifted that the process around Circular footprint formula has been unique, a lot of different actors and representations from several products and materials has presented their opinions in an open process. This has been very valuable since it has led to new knowledge in the industry about other materials and the limits and possibilities for each material or product. The A-factor used in the circular footprint model were up for discussion and how this factor is being set and if it is supposed to change over time. The A-factor is used to allocates burdens and benefits from recycling and primary material production between the two connected life cycles. The meeting concluded that there are several topics regarding Circular footprint formula to continue to discuss and evaluate after the project have ended.


The project is now focused on finalizing the project report and preparing for the open webinar that will be held on 19 May 2020. The project report will be available in the beginning of June at the project webpage.


Methods for recycling that will be presented in the project report and have been evaluated during the project is: Simple cut-off; Cut-off with economic allocation; Cut-off plus credit; Allocation to material losses; Allocation to virgin material use; 50/50 methods; Quality-adjusted 50/50 methods; Circular Footprint Formula; Market price-based allocation; Market price-based substitution; Price-elasticity approaches and Allocation at the point of substitution.

 Case studies have been conducted at Essity Hygiene and Health, Volvo AB (Buses), Tetra Pak, Scania, SSAB, Outokumpu and KTH (on concrete) where the outcome of the different methods has been compared through different materials and scenarios. These case studies will be presented in the project report. 

More information:

More information about the project and results so far, https://www.lifecyclecenter.se/projects/modeling-of-recycling/


More information about the webinar can be found here: https://www.lifecyclecenter.se/events/webinar-how-should-recycling-be-modeled-in-lca/

Short facts about the project

Funded by RE:Source
Time period 2018-11-15 – Ongoing

Project manager: Tomas Ekvall

Project organization: IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Chalmers University of Technolog,  KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Essity Hygiene and Health, Noyruon, Volvo Cars, RISE (f n Swerea SWECAST), Vattenfall, SSAB, Swedish Transport Administration, Outokumpu Stainless, Stena Recycling, Tetra Pak, Jernkontoret, Swerea IVF, Miljögiraff, Swedish Energy Agency (RE:Source), Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, Volvo AB SKF Stora Enso


Text: Maria Rydberg