When we talk about bioplastics, natural fiber, or plant-based materials, our fifth indicator of our series is relevant….Land-Use.
Land use refers to the functional dimension (i.e. use) and corresponds to the description of areas in terms of their socio-economic purposes – how the area is used for urban activities, agriculture, forestry etc. Another approach to land use is termed sequential, and it refers to a series of operations, particularly in agriculture, carried out by humans in order to obtain products and/or benefits through using land resources. Contrary to land cover, land use is difficult to “observe”. For example, it is often difficult to decide if grasslands are used or not for agricultural purposes. By the definition of IPCC (2007a) land use refers to the total arrangements, activities and inputs undertaken in a certain land cover type (a set of human actions). The term land use is also used in the sense of the social and economic purposes for which land is managed (e.g., grazing, timber extraction, and conservation).
Currently, land use related terminology is diverse, and the methodologies to assess the impacts of land use and land use change are still partly under development.
Land use is further divided into two separate categories in LCA terminology: land occupation and land transformation. The unit of this indicator is m2a/product.
The Figure below shows a possible quality alteration due to a defined land use: starting at a quality A in t1, an hypothetic land use change leads to a quality deterioration represented by the situation B in t2. During use, it is assumed, that the quality is constant. After the end of the use, the land quality can recover until reaching the situation C in t3.
After the use the land is able to increase its quality via renaturation or succession from B to C. Accordingly C displays the land quality after regeneration and is thus the reference situation for the calculation of occupation. Transformation is the quality difference of the land after use (C) and before the use (A).
If you are interested in more detail about land-use indicators for LCA please refer to the report referenced below.
Reference: “Land use in life cycle assessment”, Tuomas Mattila, Tuomas Helin, Riina Antikainen et al. The Finnish Environment, 2011.Read more