Title: Review of the environmental sustainability of bioeconomy value chains
Publisher: The Office of the Bioeconomy Council
Publication Year: 2015
JRC N°: JRC96936
URI: http://gbs2015.com
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: The bioeconomy concept refers to the sustainable exploitation of renewable biological resources for the production of energy, food&feed and bio-based products. It is a cross-sectorial concept which offers opportunities for investment in several sectors, including: agriculture, forestry, fisheries and biochemical industries. The European Commission announced its strategic interest on bioeconomy through the communication: “Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe” COM(2012) 60, highlighting the unique opportunity to accomplish economic growth while guarantying resource security and efficiency through strategic and sustainable use of renewable biological resources. The growing interest in bioeconomy has boosted the development of new value chains and technologies for the conversion of biomass into food, feed, energy and bio-based products, as well as increased the efficiency of well-established conventional value chains. A comprehensive sustainability assessment of bioeconomy is a key issue to direct investments towards the most sustainable value chains and to determine the impacts of shifting from the current petrol-based economy to a more bio-based one. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a broadly accepted method that can be used to quantify the impacts along bioeconomy value chains (i.e. from cradle to grave) [1]. The objective of this work was to perform a review analysis of publicly available LCA studies for the three pillars of bioeconomy: food, bioenergy and bio-based products. This analysis encompassed 7 bioenergy value chains, 10 bio-based products and 6 food products. A gap analysis of the published data revealed that apart from few products (such as liquid biofuels, some biopolymers and food crops) the environmental assessment of bioeconomy value chains is still in its infancy and its scope is often limited to very few impact indicators (i.e. GWP and energy efficiency). The analysis also showed that uncertainty over LCA results is significant. Among the several factors that contribute to this uncertainty, perhaps the most important ones are those related to energy efficiency, system boundaries and allocation. Comparisons with the fossil-based alternative value chains were performed for the bioenergy and bio-based products, which revealed benefits and tradeoffs of the bio-based value chains considered. [1] EC – JRC – IES, 2014. Methodology for environmental sustainability assessment in the framework of bioeconomy observatory. Acknowledgements This work was produced along the Administrative Arrangement No. 341300 between DG RTD and DG JRC entitled “Bioeconomy Information System and Observatory” /BISO/.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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