Greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption during the post-harvest life of apples as affected by storage type, packaging and transport
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In this study, the life cycle assessment (LCA) has been applied to analyze the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy requirements in the post-harvest life of apples from the Trentino-South Tyrol region (Northern Italy). Data were collected over four years from two commercial apple packinghouses. The key processes in the supply chain were identified based on direct observation, and different scenarios for conservation, packaging, and transport, as well as the source of electricity were analyzed. The results showed that the packaging was the main contributor to both the global warming potential (GWP, from 68 to 98 gCO2eq per kg of apples) and to the cumulative energy demand (from 1.3 to 1.9 MJ/ kg). The cooling process (i.e., initial refrigeration and maintaining the cool temperature) that the fruit undergoes before being stored was the second largest contributor to the environmental effects produced during the apple post-harvest. The use of renewable energy is an attractive option to drastically reduce the GWP of this phase. If long transportation distances need to be covered (for exple for export, or distances exceeding 300 km), using rail transport or shipping could cut down substantially the environmental costs. The most favorable environmental performances during the post-harvest of the apple include the storage by controlled atmosphere (CA), the delivering of fruits in large reusable plastic bins and their transport over short distances.