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Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

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