Meet the ESRs – Part 5


Name:  James Joyce

ESR 14:  Comprehensive LCA analysis of BR valorisation and enhancement of LCA methodology to include NORM

Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is James, I'm from Southampton in the UK. My bachelors degree was in Natural Sciences (specialising in Zoology) at the University of Cambridge. I also have an MSc in Environmental Technology from Imperial College, London. I'm now doing my PhD with the Redmud project at KTH in Sweden. Before starting my PhD I worked as a sustainability consultant, specialising in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is a very powerful type of analysis which investigates the potential impact to the environment of all stages of a product's life cycle (from raw material extraction, through production, distribution, use and eventual disposal) across a broad range of impact categories, to get a holistic view of the true impact.

I like asking difficult questions and getting interesting answers 🙂

I'm a big football fan - I'm hoping that my beloved Saints make it through to the group stages of the Europa League and get drawn against a Swedish team! - as well as a fan of good beer and good conversation.


How is your PhD going? What is your upcoming research about?

So far, so good! While I'm waiting for the first round of experimental results from the other ESRs, I've been working with Andrei (ESR 15) , our Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) expert, to investigate how to incorporate the potential effects of the low levels of NORM radioisotopes in bauxite, that get concentrated in bauxite residue, into LCA - both during processing and from their use in products such as building materials. We're making good progress!

I'm hoping to challenge the other ESRs to optimise the technologies we develop both in terms of process and the environment, so that we can offer a truly sustainable solution for the future extractives industry.


What or who motivates and inspires you? Any thoughts and life musings you’d like to share with us?

Real, achievable sustainability requires collaboration, honesty and courage. Not qualities you usually find in politicians, which is why we need more politicians like Caroline Lucas, our only Green Party MP in the UK. It's not so much what she stands for (although most of her ideas are good ones!), it's how she goes about making a difference. Not shouting from the sidelines, not grabbing headlines with outrageous comments, but calmly, cogently and respectfully putting her views across and standing up for what she believes in without bashing or belittling anyone else's beliefs. The voice for sustainability is a small one at the moment, the arguments for long-term thinking are easily shouted down by the promise of short-term gains. If people are going to listen it needs to be a sensible, measured persuasive voice, not a shouty, annoying alarmist one.

If we're going to make real progress towards sustainability, we're going to need to take industry with us, that's why I think projects like Redmud are so important. Better to be the trusted advisor in the passenger seat of the speeding car advocating the sensible reasons and practical steps to take towards slowing down before we reach the edge of the cliff, than the bloke at the side of the road with nothing more sensible to add than 'STOP!'.


If a chicken had lips, could it whistle?

More to the point, could it survive? Changing the design of your product (or animal...) to achieve one specific aim can potentially have adverse consequences elsewhere in it's life cycle. That's why it's so important to take a life cycle perspective. Your new 20% lighter product has less of an impact at the raw materials phase, but do customers need twice as many of them to do the same thing as the old one? Your new process uses 50% less water, great, but does it now use twice as much energy? Your newly kissable chicken might be able to whistle, but can it eat?!

(I bet you though't I couldn't link that question back to LCA eh?!)