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Understanding Life Cycle Analysis

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life cycle analysis (also known as environmental balance sheet, ecological balance sheet or life cycle assessment, LCA) is a systematic analysis of the environmental impact of products. The life cycle analysis includes all environmental impacts during production, use and disposal of the product as well as any associated upstream and downstream processes (e.g., production of raw materials, auxiliary materials and supplies).

As a rule, it is necessary to include a threshold value in the considerations and to neglect everything whose contribution to the final statement is certainly below this threshold value. In the case of the boreholes required for a geothermal power plant, the CO 2 emissions from the production of the steel pipes for the borehole expansion are taken into account, but not the petrol consumption of the employees of the pipe works for the journey to work.

As defined by the European Commission, LCA is a process for collecting and evaluating the “input” and “output” data of a product and the potential environmental impacts throughout its life cycle (manufacture, use, decommissioning). The principles for conducting LCA studies have been set out in standards by the International Committee for Standardization:

  • ISO 14040:2009 Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment – Principles and Framework and
  • ISO 14044:2009 Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment – Requirements and Guidelines.

In order to get even more effective analysis for your company, one may connect with Greenly.

The life cycle assessment enables a proper assessment of all environmental aspects in the phase of extraction and processing of mineral resources, manufacture, distribution, recovery, recycling and final disposal of waste. In the context outlined above, the primary task of an LCA is to document the environmental impacts of a product/process at each life stage and to analyze the potential for related environmental impacts resulting from the implementation of product/process improvement measures. In the ISO 14040 standard, assumptions are given showing that the life cycle assessment consists of four main phases:

  • 1st step: Deciding on purpose and scope (by defining the boundaries of the system, selecting the functional unit) – definition of goals
  • 2nd step: Analysis of the inputs and outputs (process analysis, raw material, energy and material flow balance, waste balance) – inventory balance
  • 3rd step: Evaluation of the effect of the system – impact assessment
  • 4th step: Interpretation.

These phases ensure that the entire life cycle of the product is contemplated, generating many more opportunities for improvement than if we only look at the introduction of a new product in the market until its decline.

Life Cycle Analysis and Critical Raw Materials

An LCA study can offer a myriad of information! One of them is the deepening of issues related to Critical Raw Materials (CRMs), those of great importance for the economy and high risk associated with their supply. Knowing the origin of the raw materials used can improve decision-making, for example, if the origin refers to foreground data the risk potential has a more direct effect compared to data coming from the second flat (background system).

The datasets obtained on the materials used in products and processes provide subsidies to accelerate the implementation of strategies for the efficient use of resources focused on the consumption