en

What’s “Life Cycle Assessment”?

  •   December 22nd, 2014
  •   Category: Regulations
  •   Posted by: Ecodyger

What’s LCA?

LCA stands for Life Cycle Assessment.

It’s a tool used and adopt to evaluate the potential impact on the environment of a product, a process or an activity throughout its whole life cycle.

All through the quantification of the use of resources (“inputs” such as energy, raw materials, water) and environmental emissions (“emissions” in the air, water and soil) associated with the system being assessed.

In other words Life Cycle Assessment is an objective process of evaluation of environmental loads produced as a result of the life cycle of a product, process or activity.

What does LCA do?

LCA allows a comparison between different products with their equal function and to identify the most significant impacts on which to focus efforts reduction. The term ” life cycle ” refers to the fact that, to make an unbiased and “holistic”(in all aspects) evaluation, you must perform an investigation of the issue by considering the whole life cycle of the product. From the production of raw materials, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal, including transportation and energy consumption.

All these macro – phases is commonly called ” cradle to grave “ path.

LCA_new_01

In order to better understand the foregoing, for example, for a given product, LCA considers: the supply of the necessary raw materials, the production of intermediate products and finally the product itself, including the packaging and the transport of raw materials and intermediate products, the use and subsequent disposal of the product.

This task is done through:

  1. Identifying and quantifying energy and materials used and emissions released into the environment
  2. Determination of the impact of the energy used and the loads on the environment
  3. The assessment and implementation of practical environmental improvement.

Understanding the concept

The LCA analysis therefore includes the entire life cycle of the product, process or activity. It also allows for the extraction and processing of raw materials, production, transport and distribution, use, maintenance, and end of life.

For example, two types of system, particularly interesting are the life cycle of a product, eg. a detergent, and an activity related to its specific use, eg. washing of the garments.

lifecycle_02

Source P&G

Life Cycle Assessment Studies and Evaluation

They are conducted in order to answer specific questions, such as:

  • How two different production processes for the same product are compared in terms of resources use and emissions ?
  • How does the potential environmental impacts of a new product compare to the impact of existing products on the market ?
  • How contribute the different phases of the life cycle of this product to total emissions ?
  • Socio-Economic Impact Analysis

In other words, the Life Cycle Assessment seeks to increase efficiency.

Taking into account all stages of life of a product apparent improvements that simply turn around the problem are recognized and then deleted.

LCA examples

To help you better understand the above, we present below an example of LCA in a company of PCs, laptops and audio / tv, Toshiba.

lifecycle01_toshiba_01

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has published a study on the carbon footprint and other environmental impacts of newspapers, magazines, photo books, books and brochures.

The case studies are based on an assessment of the life cycle that followed print products from cradle to grave, providing fiber, paper making, printing, transportation, use, recycling and management of waste.

LCA_newspaper_01

LCA isn’t…

LCA isn’t a risk evaluation. In fact, LCA does not consider the exposure, a critical factor for the risk evaluation. LCA quantifies emissions, but the effective impacts of these emissions depend on when, where and how they are released in the environment.

Is the LCA standardized by rules ?

Yes, the international reference standard for the execution of the LCA is Represented by ISO 14040 series (link):

  • UNI EN ISO 14040: 2006 Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Principles and framework
  • UNI EN ISO 14044: 2006 Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Requirements and guidelines

The standard Describes the Principles and the framework for the evaluation of the life cycle (LCA), including:

  • A. The definition of the objective and scope of the LCA;
  • B. Phase of life cycle inventory (LCI);
  • C. the stages of the life cycle assessment (LCIA);
  • D. the interpretation phase of the life cycle;
  • E. reporting and critical review of ‘ LCA;
  • F. limitations of LCA;
  • G. correlations between the phases of LCA;
  • H. conditions for use of the choices of the values ​​and optional elements.

The rule is the evaluation studies of the life cycle (LCA) and life cycle inventory (LCI). However, the standard does not describe in detail the technical evaluation of the life cycle and does not specify methodologies for the individual phases of the LCA.

What are the results of an LCA ?

• Identify environmental aspects of the entire life cycle: allows to focus attention and prescriptions on what really matters;

• Identify the impactful processes and flows: allows to define the thresholds of acceptability;

• Allows to identify the best techniques, through the comparison between products with similar functions

For All These Reasons, the LCA is the basis of the definition of the criteria of the European Ecolabel (we’ll talk about in a future article) and the definition of environmental criteria for GPP Green Public Procurement (link to our article).

LCA example for a food product

At the end of our brief journey into the world of LCA, we take as an example understandable to all the LCA of a food: High Quality Milk of a famous Italian brand. This is food at a very high nutritional value but included among the major causes of the environmental impact of consumption in Europe.

A debate is made on:

  • Better packaging
  • Pasteurized or raw milk
  • Transport

1) Results

Impact Assessment

Processes responsible for the main impacts

Packaging, transport and pasteurization are not a major contributor to the environmental impact of milk.

The main impacts of the farms on milk’s LCA are due to the following issues:

  • CH4 emissions from enteric fermentation (digestion animal) and manure management;
  • N2O emissions due to the use of chemical fertilizers, manure management and use of manure and liquid manure on farmland as fertilizer;
  • CO2 emissions due to the consumption of diesel fuel for agricultural processing.

2) possible improvements

  • The improvements must take place mainly in the agricultural phase and breeding
  • specific diet that reduces emissions enteric (eg. Formed from food to higher digestibility, or a larger amount of concentrated or fat)
  • optimizing the use of fertilizers through agronomic practices Precision
  • installation of anaerobic digestion of animal waste (manure and slurry) to help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and to allow the production of energy from renewable sources, alleviating dependence on fossil fuels.
  • In the early stages of distribution and use: use of refrigeration systems with high energy efficiency

3) Concluding remarks

The scientific evidence must always support the debate, especially when related to complex problems such as environmental.

Measure allows identifying where to focus more efficiently improvement works; very critical aspect in times of economic hardship like the present!

The Management Committee of the GPP – Green Public Procurement uses the ‘ LCA to identify key impacts of products / services to be reduced through the establishment of the Environmental Criteria for public

Source: P.Masoni – Laboratory LCA and Eco – design of ENEA, the Italian Network of LCA

Ecodyger and LCA

Ecodyger has a great positive impact on organic waste’s LCA that once sent to the collection becomes organic refusal.

Ecodyger is a revolutionary new technology created to respond to the European Waste Directive 2008/98/EC. The Directive indicates and warns all member countries to promote and encourage all forms and technologies designed to reduce the production of waste at source and only if necessary, for the amount that you cannot reduce, think about their reuse and recycling, thereby avoiding the need to transfer traditional landfill, incinerator, etc..

Think what it means, for example, manage directly at the source a ton of wet waste entering the normal chain of waste management (collection, transport and landfill, incineration, treatment plant biomass, etc.) only the 10- 20 or at most 30 % of that amount.

Also, consider that beyond the existing legal constraints, the residue of Ecodyger is already a natural resource to be used 100 % (for private use of the person who created it) as a natural fertilizer and soil conditioner compost, zero km. On the contrary, today chemical fertilizers are among the products with the highest negative impact in terms of LCA.

Subscribe to our newsletter (bottom page) and don’t lose our next depth analysis of the world of waste.