Combining organizational and product life cycle perspective to explore the environmental benefits of steel slag recovery practices

Sci Total Environ. 2023 Apr 1:867:161440. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.161440. Epub 2023 Jan 7.


Sustainability in steel production is considered a global challenge which needs to be faced with coordinated actions. The aim of this study is to assess the environmental improvements of a steel mill in a circular economy perspective, through the Organizational Life Cycle Assessment (O-LCA) and the Product Life Cycle Assessment (P-LCA) methodologies. This study explores to what extent the improvements and the efforts to recover the steel slag can be detected using an organization perspective and making a comparison with the more traditional product perspective. The results obtained show that the case in which the steel slag is recovered has lower impacts than the case in which it is landfilled through both O-LCA and P-LCA applications and that the percentage variations are similar for 8 categories out of 10 demonstrating that for our case study, O-LCA and P-LCA can detect the efforts to recover slag similarly. Two categories, namely ADP-minerals&metals and EP-freshwater, are affected by the greater amount of metal and mineral raw materials needed if the slag is not treated and by the steel slag landfill disposal more significantly. What the results tell us is that the variations obtained for this study in the P-LCA application are greater than those obtained in O-LCA application, due to two methodological aspects, namely the application of allocation procedures and the choice of the system boundaries. Finally, it emerges that O-LCA methodology can detect environmental improvements of circularity practices, but the reduction of the impacts is less clear than P-LCA application. What is transferable is that O-LCA and P-LCA methodologies are not interchangeable to quantify the environmental benefits and address the efforts to improve a process in terms of circularity.

Keywords: Electric Arc Furnace; Organizational Life Cycle Assessment; Product Life Cycle Assessment; Steel; Steel slag.