Application of a methodology for the social life cycle assessment of recycling systems in low income countries: three Peruvian case studies

Sandra Roxana Aparcana Robles, Stefan Salhofer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose In a previous phase of this work, a methodology oriented towards social Life Cycle Assessment (sLCA) was developed to assess the social impact of formalised recycling systems in low income countries. To support this, a literature review of social impact assessment methodologies was carried out incorporating the social issues of both the informal and the implemented, formal recycling approaches. The goal of this study is to determine the feasibility of applying this methodology by assessing the current social impacts of three Peruvian recycling systems based on two formalisation approaches. A further goal is to identify and measure the social impacts of the formalisation procedures, thereby confirming or rebutting the expectations and forecasts of organisations (NGOs, Local Authorities, Ministries & Business) involved in the implementation.
Methods The methodology developed was applied to three Peruvian recycling systems which had been formalised using two different approaches. One approach utilizes cooperation with recyclers’ associations and the second one, operated by the municipality uses formalised recyclers as employees. Interviews were conducted with local recycling system stakeholders in order to collect data to assess fulfilment of the social criteria. Three impact categories and 9 subcategories were analysed using 26 indicators. To transform the qualitative information into numerical values, a score system 1 or 0 for the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of social criteria was applied. After obtaining the indicators’ average scores, further characterisation by social impact subcategory was effected. The final scores for the subcategories show the fulfilment or otherwise of all social criteria related to the subcategory.
Results and discussion The assessment substantiates similar negative impacts of both formalisation approaches for the social subcategories discrimination, recognised employment relationships and fulfilment of social benefit, physical working conditions and education. The formalisation based on cooperation with recyclers’ associations reveals a positive social impact for freedom of association and collective bargaining, psychological working conditions and social acceptance whereas the method operated by the municipality scores better for working time and minimum, fair incomes. Regarding the methodology, no difficulties were detected in applying the indicators.
Conclusions It can be concluded that although sLCA was originally used to analyse products and production processes, it is feasible to adapt it for the social assessment of recycling systems based on formalisation of the informal sector in low income countries. A comparison of current social impacts between different formalisation approaches using this methodology is also viable. A further conclusion is that it is feasible to measure the social impacts of formalisation approaches using the selected indicators and characterisation procedure. Social issues such as anti-discrimination policies, employment terms, payment of social benefits, preventive policies, occupational and health training and adult education can be improved following the evaluation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)1116-1128
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Developing countries
  • Formalisation
  • Recycling
  • Social impacts
  • Social indicators
  • Social life cycle assessment


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