Life Cycle Assessment
Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA, is an environmental accounting and management approach that considers all the aspects of resource use and environmental releases associated with an industrial system from cradle to grave. Specifically, it is a holistic view of environmental interactions that covers a range of activities, from the extraction of raw materials from the Earth and the production and distribution of energy, through the use, and reuse, and final disposal of a product. LCA is a relative tool intended for comparison and not absolute evaluation, thereby helping decision makers compare all major environmental impacts when choosing between alternative courses of action.
An LCA study consists of four stages:
Stage 1: Goal and scope aim to define how big a part of product life cycle will be taken in assessment and to what end will the assessment be serving. The criteria serving to system comparison and specific times are described in this step.
Stage 2: In this step, inventory analysis gives a description of material and energy flows within the product system and especially its interaction with the environment, consumed raw materials, and emissions to the environment. All important processes and subsidiary energy and material flows are described later.
Stage 3: Details from inventory analysis serve for impact assessment . The indicator results of all impact categories are detailed in this step; the importance of every impact category is assessed by normalization and eventually also by weighting.
Stage 4: Interpretation of a life cycle involves the critical review, determination of data sensitivity, and result presentation.