Quantitative Methods for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Applied to the Vegetable Industry

  • Jovita Moreno
  • Cristina Pablos
  • Javier Marugán
Part of the Food Microbiology and Food Safety book series (FMFS)


Nowadays there is a growing concern about the environmental effects produced by human activities due to natural resource depletion and ecosystem degradation. Traditionally, many industrial sectors have attempted to reduce the environmental impacts of their activities mainly by focusing their efforts on the improvement of manufacture procedures and operations carried out from the entry of raw materials in the factory to the exit of done products. However, for an adequate evaluation of the environmental performance of processes and products, it is necessary to think beyond the factory gate and understand the full life cycle of a product or an activity. Therefore, not only manufacture step should be taken into account but also other stages such as extraction and production of the required raw materials, packing and distribution of manufactured products, the use of products, the reuse or recycling processes and/or management of produced wastes. All these steps constitute the product life cycle, and the evaluation methodology that includes all of them is called life cycle assessment (LCA). Thus, life cycle assessment is considered a “cradle-to-grave” approach for the evaluation of industrial systems. In particular, systems for food production require larger inputs of resources and cause several negative environmental effects. Moreover, retailers are becoming very influential in addressing the environmental issue, exerting pressure on the food manufacturers to adopt sustainable manufacturing processes. Hence, sustainable processing is becoming increasingly important. A review of main LCA studies addressing environmental impacts in food industry, specifically in the vegetable processing industry, has been described. A “cradle-to-gate” case study considering as functional unit 130 g of packed RTE lettuce produced in Spain has been carried out. The main environmental burden obtained was associated with the processing phase (water used for lettuce washing; polypropylene used for packaging; and electricity consumed, mainly for cooling, in the processing plant), leading to emissions of 72 g CO2-eq affecting the global warming potential category.


LCA RTE vegetables Case study GaBi Cradle-to-gate 



The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (MINECO) through the project WATER4FOOD (CTQ2014-54563-C3-1-R).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jovita Moreno
    • 1
  • Cristina Pablos
    • 1
  • Javier Marugán
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Environmental Technology (ESCET)Universidad Rey Juan CarlosMadridSpain

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