Affiliations: Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Parma, Parma, Italy
Note:  Corresponding author: Michele Manfredi, Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Parma, Viale delle Scienze 181/A, 43124 Parma, Italy. Tel.: +390521905850; Fax: +390521905705; E-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to assess the environmental performance and burdens of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. The RFID application involves additional environmental impacts to the life cycle of the product to which it is applied. Environmental burdens are caused, for instance, by the emissions and energy requirements that occur during the tag production, transportation and disposal. At the same time, when RFID technology is applied to tag fresh food products, some environmental benefits can be achieved. As an example, food waste can be reduced by optimizing the supply chain processes; therefore, the related environmental impacts can be avoided. The environmental sustainability of the RFID technology is evaluated through the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, considering its application to a fresh product, namely fresh milk. The assessment was made exploiting the midpoint indicators recommended in the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook, edited by the Joint Research Centre of European Commission. Results show that the RFID application reduces the environmental impacts in all the categories considered, and that, overall, the environmental benefits resulting from the food waste reduction significantly overcome the tag impacts (more than 5 times). Given the lack of studies focusing on the environmental impact of RFID technology, this work might represent an important addition to the literature.