Optimizing the environmental sustainability of alternative post-harvest scenarios for fresh vegetables: A case study in Spain
Science of the Total Environment
- Fecha: 01 January 2022
- ISSN: 18791026 00489697
- Source Type: Journal
- DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.160422
- Document Type: Article
- Publisher: Elsevier B.V.
© 2022 The AuthorsThe aim of this research is to define different scenarios that optimize the environmental sustainability of the post-harvest stage of vegetable products (cauliflower and brassicas mix). These scenarios considered different packaging materials; energy generation technologies for the processing plant (standard electricity mix vs. renewable options); organic waste management (composting, anaerobic digestion, and animal feeding); and refrigerated transportation (local, national, and international, using diesel, natural gas, and hybrid trucks and railway). The analysis has been carried out based on a foreground inventory provided by a company that operating internationally, in accordance with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14,040 methodological framework and following the latest Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) protocols. The analysis describes four midpoint categories, single score (SS) using EF3.0 life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methodology and the Cumulative Energy Demand. The carbon footprint (CF) of the post-harvest stage for a base case scenario ranged between 0.24 and 0.29 kg CO2 eq/kg of vegetable, with a strong contribution associated to the production of packaging materials (57.8¿65.2 %) and the transport stage (national range in conventional diesel vehicles) (31.5¿38.0 %). Comparatively, lower emissions were associated with the energy consumed at the processing factory (up to 4.1 %) while the composting of organic waste management produced some impact savings (up to ¿3.5 %). Although certain differences were observed, the dominance of the transport stage and the packaging materials is sustained in all the other environmental impact and energy categories evaluated. The most effective measures to reduce the environmental footprint of the post-harvest stage involve: i) using reusable packaging materials; ii) reducing the transport range and using vehicles running on natural gas or hybrid technologies; iii) the incorporation of renewable energy to supply the factory; and iv) the utilization of the organic residues in higher value applications such as animal feeding. Implementing the measures proposed in this study would reduce the post-harvest CF of fresh vegetables by 90 %.