Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an Environmental Management Tool that tries to identify, measure and characterize different potential environmental impacts associated with product throughout its life span.
LCA examines the product from the extraction of raw materials for the manufacturing process, through the production and use of the item, to its final disposal, and thus encompassing the entire product system. It is part of the ISO 14000 (Environmental Management) standards, and is specifically addressed by ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:2006.
Need of LCA
Phases of Life Cycle Assessment
- To study the impact of product, services and technology on environment.
- To identify and implement ways of improving environmental foot print.
- To identify the environmental consequence of a decision or a proposed change in the system under study.
There are four main phases of conducting LCA, they are as follows :
- Goal and Scope Definition:
This phase determines the objective, functional unit under consideration of the process, it decides which processes and environmental concerns will be included in the study,it sets out the background of the study.
This phase provides information about all environmental inputs and outputs from all parts of the product system involved in the life cycle assessment. It involves modeling of the product system, data collection and verification of data for inputs and outputs for all parts of the product system. Inputs include: inputs of materials, energy, chemicals and ‘other’. Outputs include: air emissions, water emissions and solid waste.
This phase has three major steps:
Construct a process flowchart that shows the following:
Collect Data for:
- Raw materials.
- Manufacturing processes.
- Waste management.
Calculate the amounts of each in relation to the functional unit
- Material inputsnt.
- Products and byproducts.
- Solid waste, air and water emissions.
Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) consists of the following mandatory elements:
- Selection of impact categories, category indicators, and characterization models;
- The classification stage, where the inventory parameters are sorted and assigned to specific impact categories
- Impact measurement, where the categorized LCI flows are characterized, using one of many possible LCIA methodologies, into common equivalence units that are then summed to provide an overall impact category .
The last step is an analysis of the impact data,this phase has two main objectives:
- Analyze results, reach conclusions, explain limitations, and provide recommendations based on the findings of the preceding phases of the LCA, and to report the results of the life cycle interpretation in a transparent manner..
Benefits of Conducting LCA
- Provide a readily understandable, complete, and consistent presentation of the results of an LCA study, in accordance with the goal and scope of the study.
- Identify the significant environmental impacts of products at all stages of their lifecycle>
- Identify opportunities to improve the environmental aspects at various stages of the product lifecycle by implementing eco-design practices to encourage increased efficiency, innovation and potentially cost savings
- Carry out future reviews of products or services more readily, when modifications are being considered for those products or services, as demands change
- Compare products and find sustainability improvements easier to apply in-house
- Promote demand for products that have fewer adverse environmental impacts
- Prepare environmental action plans and manage risks and potential liabilities
- Communicate environmental initiatives and respond to stakeholder demands
- Comply with regulations and gain competitive advantage
- Integrate environmental management into core business decision-making and actions.