Social life cycle assessment of brine treatment and recovery technology: A social hotspot and site-specific evaluation.
Environmental pollution, resource scarcity, and freshwater shortage are critical world challenges facing humanity. Process industry produces large amounts of brine, a waste water with a high salinity level and often critical raw materials. This study applies the social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) to quantify societal benefits and risks in developing brine treatment systems. S-LCA is implemented for hotspot and site-specific levels on four case studies of the Zero Brine project. Hotspot analysis focused on the major commodities. Social Hotspot Database was used as source for data and endpoint indicators. In addition, site-specific analysis regarded the social performance of the case studies companies; interviews and questionnaires were performed with representatives of the four case studies. The collected data were converted to scores with subcategory assessment method and performance reference points. The results show that for all case studies “Labor rights and decent work” and “Health and safety” indicators result in the largest impacts due to imports of commodities from developing countries. Site-specific results show that the overall social sustainability performance of the case study companies is at a good level. The only potential areas for improvement are the “Occupational accidents” and “Contribution to the local community”. The former are minimally higher for silica plant and higher for coal mine in relation to these sectors average accidents rates. Furthermore, the coal mine company can contribute more to the local community and reduce conflicts concerning environmental impacts at the city level. Common identified hotspots among the case studies are: China, India and Congo. Reducing imports from these countries will significantly improve the societal performance of the brine systems.