Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a methodological tool used to quantitatively analyse the life cycle of products/activities within the context of environmental impact. In LCA, the total life cycle of a product or activity is considered, from the extraction of resource materials to the waste and waste treatment stage, also referred to as from the cradle to the grave. For this purpose, specific calculation tools are being applied.

LCA steps

LCA comprises several steps. De most important ones are:

  • LCI – life cycle inventory. In this step, information on the use of resource materials and energy used within the life cycle and the emission of (harmful) substances throughout the life cycle is collected.
  • LCIA - life cycle impact assessment. Based on the LCIA, a picture of the environmental impact caused by the product or activity is created. The inventory data (Life Cycle Inventory results) are judged in this step.

Environmental profile

The result of an LCA study is an environmental profile of a product or activity: a ‘score list’ with environmental effects. The environmental profile shows the most significant environmental problems caused by a product and at which stage(s) in the life cycle these problems are caused. In this way, LCA contributes to the possible definition of management changes for improving the environmental friendliness of a product. Also, the consequences of different alternatives can be shown.