News from the world: Life Cycle thinking innovations

28 October 2014

‘Life cycle thinking’ is about looking for unexpected opportunities. But can it also make your wardrobe and your food last longer? Find out more in a blog by PE International.

Life cycle thinking can help to unlock creativity and lead to game-changing innovation. Life cycle thinking allows us to see the bigger picture of social, environmental and technical systems over their full life cycle, and helps to work toward a circular economy.

How can life cycle thinking principles be applied to help reduce food waste? According to Auckland Council, 65% of what is collected on rubbish day shouldn’t be thrown out: 40% of the waste being made up of food scraps, and 15% recyclable material. It costs $77 million a year to dispose of that waste.

UK supermarket Tesco is attempting to tackle the problem by trialling an innovative package with an ethylene-absorbing strip for tomatoes, designed by technology company It’s Fresh Ltd.

Like many other fruits and vegetables tomatoes naturally produce ethylene. Allowing ethylene to remain within the packaging speeds up the aging process of the product. By absorbing the gas, the ethylene strips inside the package slow down the product’s aging process. It makes the tomato last longer and helps to prevent food waste.

The packaging is regarded as a major breakthrough in the fight to combat food waste and could save the fresh produce industry a lot of money. According to the Guardian, the strip could save 1.6 million packs of tomatoes a year from going to waste.  

“It’s a perfect example of how changing something in one part of the life cycle can have a significant impact further down the track,” says Barbara Nebel, Managing Director of PE INTERNATIONAL in Australasia.

“If you want to quantify the environmental benefits, you need to do a full life cycle assessment,” says Barbara. 

PE INTERNATIONAL has done this for Levi Strauss & Co. The life cycle assessment helped Levi’s to reduce its environmental impact throughout the entire process of making jeans.

By re-thinking water consumption at every step of its production process, Levi Strauss & Co is using up to 96% less water to produce a new line of “Water<less Jeans,” reports the Guardian. The company also began a marketing campaign to encourage people to wash their jeans less often, in cold water only, and line-dry them. It changed the care tag to say so. 

The above examples show that life cycle thinking is a way of thinking about all stages of the life cycle of a product’s life, from raw material extraction, manufacture, transport and use to disposal. 

The content of this article is from a blog by PE INTERNATIONAL. Click here to read the original article.