Life cycle assessment of industrial scale production of spirulina tablets

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Spirulina platensis has been successfully commercialized as functional food ingredients, animal feed and medicine due to its high contents of protein, beta-carotene, vitamins, and minerals. In this study, we investigated the environmental performance (cradle-to-gate) of edible Spirulina tablets using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). A comparative analysis with other three traditional foods or diets was conducted by using various nutrient values as functional units (e.g., protein content and a composite nutrient score) in the analysis. This research showed that Spirulina tablets production for protein caused environmental impacts mainly in fossil fuel use, acidification, climate change, smog formation, and eutrophication. The impact of the cultivation stage was the highest environmental impacts among all production stages resulting from the extensive use of chemicals, nutrients, and energy. The impacts of algae food production are around 2–5 times to algae production for biofuels which was also modeled in this study. In terms of protein production, algae tablet cause higher impacts than traditional terrestrial crops but lower impacts than protein from animal products. However, as the algae contain a wide variety of nutrients, especially high micronutrients such as the beta-carotene, the environmental impacts of producing the same nutrient combinations of protein and beta-carotene from carrot + tofu were higher than producing Spirulina tablets. The results in this work can be used to assess edible algae production inventories and provide reliable information for development of more sustainable products and processes.

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Algal Research

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