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12 Estimating the Environmental Impact of Products: Life Cycle Assessment

12.2.2 Stages of LCA The elaboration process of LCA is divided into four8 respective phases (Fig. 12.1): • • • •

Goal and scope definition Life Cycle Inventory Life Cycle Impact Assessment Interpretation of the results The Goal and Scope Definition This stage of LCA has been well defined on a theoretical level and is consequently divided into four steps. Definition of research goal – identifying the reasons behind LCA development and the engagement of the results, e. g. inside or outside the company. Definition of the scope – identifying the production system, its reach and limits, during later stages, it is opportune to return to the definition of the scope. Definition of the functional unit – one of the crucial steps in LCA, where the dimensions and assessments the system studied has to undergo are defined. In other words, it is not the product to be assessed, but all processes associated with the fulfilment of a given function. LCA can be applied to both physical and immaterial products, e. g. services. Comparing possible alternatives, for example, the product before and after redesign, has to match functionally similar products, services and processes. The functional unit is defined in order to become the basis for such comparisons9. Definition of data quality – minimum criteria for using available information10. Life Cycle Inventory Life Cycle Inventory has been also well defined, but requires some clarification. During the inventory, the output and input of the system studied is analysed against the background of the functional unit defined within the goal and scope definition. After the definition of system boundaries and the composition of a process flow-chart, the next step is data processing. This phase can be divided into: 8

ISO 14000. E.g. transportation per persons: the functional unit is passenger per kilometre. If all transportation systems are being examined, then the comparisons, for example, are made between a bicycle, motorbike, car, public transport, train and plane; eventually several restrictions can be applied, as in the case of private transportation, trains and planes can be ignored, and reducing street traffic does not have to take into account trains, planes and bicycles. In all cases the lifespan of products/services and the re-use and recycling possibilities have to be compared. 10 Here, it is decided, for example, if the data has to be surveyed or whether it is possible to use the information as it is. 9

Design for Environmental Sustainability  
Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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