What is Life Cycle Assessment ?

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all stages of product life from cradle to grave. Ideally, a complete LCA would include three components:
  1. Life Cycle Inventory – Compiling an inventory of relevant energy and material inputs and environmental releases
  2. Life Cycle Impact Assessment – Evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with identified inputs and releases
  3. Life Cycle Improvement Analysis – Interpreting the results to help you make a more informed decision

Advantages:

  • LCA is the only tool that examines the environmental impacts of a product or service throughout its life cycle
  • LCA is an ISO standardized method
  • LCA provides a comprehensive overview of a product or service and avoids simply shifting the source of the pollution from one life cycle stage to another
  • LCA can, for example, guide a company’s decision-making process (micro-economic level) and help governments define a public policy (macro-economic level)
  • LCA challenges preconceived notions by distinguishing between the information that is relevant for objective quantification and the issues that pertain to policies, priorities, and social choices
Limitations:
  • The results of an life cycle assessment are geographically dependent. Hence, the results of an life cycle assessment carried out in Europe cannot be applied to India without taking into account the significant variations related to the geographical context.
  • LCA only assesses potential impacts and not real impacts. Hence, it does not provide any information on the consequences of not following regulations or on environmental risks
  • The results of two LCAs on a same subject may differ according to the objectives, processes, quality of the data, and the impact assessment methods used. This is why ISO insists on transparency in life cycle assessment
  • A detailed life cycle assessment requires inventory data of all of the elementary processes included within the parameters of the system. Databases, life cycle assessment software, and even human resources are required to analyze all the data

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