Are we still keeping it “real”? Proposing a revised paradigm for recycling credits in attributional life cycle assessment

  • Christoph KofflerEmail author
  • Matthias Finkbeiner



End-of-life (EoL) recycling poses a challenge to many practitioners today due to the availability of different calculation approaches and the lack of scientific consensus, which is fueled by academic research and vested industry interests alike. One of the main challenges in EoL modeling is the credible calculation of the appropriate recycling credit in open-loop and closed-loop situations.


We believe that part of the challenge is caused by a lack of understanding of the underlying recycling paradigm, which refers to the meaning that is assigned to the recycling credit. Referred to as “system expansion through substitution” and “future displacement of primary production,” the two predominant paradigms are delineated from each other followed by a discussion of their remaining challenges.

Results and discussion

Based on these considerations, we propose a revised paradigm based on embodied burdens that is able to alleviate many of the most pressing issues associated with material recycling in attributional life cycle assessment.


With this discussion paper, we look forward to a productive and lively debate on the matter.


LCA LCI End-of-life Recyling Allocation 

Supplementary material

11367_2017_1404_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (177 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 177 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.thinkstep Inc.BostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental TechnologyTechnical University BerlinBerlinGermany

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