What is Life Cycle Assessment?
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool for the systematic evaluation of the environmental aspects of a product or service system through all stages of its life cycle. LCA provides an adequate instrument for environmental decision support. Reliable LCA performance is crucial to achieve a life-cycle economy. The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), a world-wide federation of national standards bodies, has standardised this framework within the series ISO 14040 on LCA.
The Phases of Life Cycle Assessment
- Goal and Scope Definition, the product(s) or service(s) to be assessed are defined, a functional basis for comparison is chosen and the required level of detail is defined;
- Inventory Analysis of extractions and emissions, the energy and raw materials used, and emissions to the atmosphere, water and land, are quantified for each process, then combined in the process flow chart and related to the functional basis;
- Impact Assessment, the effects of the resource use and emissions generated are grouped and quantified into a limited number of impact categories which may then be weighted for importance;
- Interpretation, the results are reported in the most informative way possible and the need and opportunities to reduce the impact of the product(s) or service(s) on the environment are systematically evaluated.