LCA of Sevices

Case: transport packaging

LCA of services is a bit different from LCA op products. The reasons are: (1) a service usually requires shared services of more than 1 asset, like equipment and infrastructure (2) a service delivers an output (the functional unit and the reference flow) that can often not be expressed in terms of a physical unit (e.g. kg, m2, m3), like the service of a hairdresser or a consultant. (3) the cradle-to-grave or the cradle-to-cradle aspects are hard to define for a service.
The best way to explain how to deal with the issue of services is to look at a case: transport packaging, required for the transport of goods.

Since there is an ongoing debate on the environmental aspects of re-usable crates versus paper board boxes, a calculation is given on the transport of fresh fruit and vegetables from a Dutch greenhouse to a German retail shop. Two Packaging systems are compared:
– solid board boxes (made from recycled paper)
– re-usable plastic crates (made of High Density Polyethylene, HDPE)

The analysis starts with the calculation of the eco-costs per volume (liters) of the box and the crate (per trip). See Fig. 5.7a . Since a crate has 30 round-trips on average, 1/30 of the eco-costs of a crate are allocated to one trip.

Figure 5.7a. Data of transport packaging for fruit and vegetables

The eco-costs data are from the Idemat excel files, which can be found at the webpage data.

The next step of the analyses is to extend the LCA with the transport of the goods (500 km transport). This transport involves the shared use of a truck+trailer, warehouses, forklift trucks, and packaging , see Fig 5.7b.
Fig 5.7c shows the eco-costs of the truck+trailer in terms of volume per trip. The issue is here the load of the trailer at the return trip:
– Full (of empty crates) in the crate system.
– Partly filled with other freight in the case of the box system (the empty boxes are collected in the