Environmental sustainability assessment of bioeconomy Bioeconomy has gained political momentum since 2012 when the European Commission adopted the strategy “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe”. Assessing the environmental performance of different bioeconomy value chains (divided in three pillars: food and feed, bio-based products and bioenergy) is key to facilitate solid and evidence-based policy making. The objectives of this work were: (1) to map and analyse accessible LCA data related to bioeconomy value chains in order to identify knowledge gaps; (2) provide a more robust and complete picture of the environmental performance of three bioeconomy value chains (i.e. one per each bioeconomy pillar). This analysis reveals that apart from few products (such as liquid biofuels, some biopolymers and food crops) the environmental assessment of bioeconomy value chains is still incipient and limited to few indicators (e.g. Global Warming Potential and energy efficiency). In this study, a harmonised procedure – the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF), which includes fourteen impact categories – is used to estimate the environmental performance of three exemplary case studies which are inter-related due to the use of sugar as feedstock: sugar (food and feed), bio-based ethanol (bioenergy) and polyhydroxyalkanoates (bio-based product). Results highlight the strong need for methodological harmonisation and coherence for LCA of bioeconomy value chains.
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