What is LCA?
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a cradle-to-grave quantitative assessment of the environmental impacts associated with a product, process or service. In the case of a product, life cycle refers to the major activities undertaken in the course of its lifespan from raw material sourcing, manufacturing, and use, to its final disposal or reuse.
Why do a LCA?
The application of an LCA can assist in:
- identifying opportunities to improve the environmental aspects of products at various points in their life cycle;
- decision-making in industry (e.g. strategic planning, priority setting, product or process design or redesign);
- selecting the relevant indicators of environmental performance, including measurement techniques;
- marketing and communication with stakeholders (e.g. an environmental claim, ecolabelling scheme or environmental product declaration).
Stages of a LCA study
Step 1: Goal and Scope definition – defines the purpose of the analysis, the boundary parameters within which the analysis occurs, the product/material/process of study, and lists the information sources and assumptions used in the analysis;
Step 2: Inventory analysis – accounts for all the energy, raw materials and emissions used and/or generated throughout the life cycle of the product/material/process under assessment;
Step 3: Impact assessment – data from the inventory analysis is used to calculate the results of the study;
Step 4: Interpretation – results are interpreted, uncertainty assessed, and performance tracking is done;
Step 5: Reporting and critical review – a final report to the client is compiled, and if applicable, assurance will be done by a third party