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LCA

LCA

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Published by krrish1410

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Published by: krrish1410 on Nov 08, 2010
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11/08/2010

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What is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?As environmental awareness increases, industries and businesses are assessing how their activities affectthe environment. Society has become concerned about the issues of natural resource depletion andenvironmental degradation. Many businesses have responded to this awareness by providing ³
greener
´
products
and using
³greener´ processes
. Many companies have found it advantageous to explore waysof moving beyond compliance using pollution prevention strategies and environmental managementsystems to improve their environmental performance. One such tool is LCA. This concept considers theentire life cycle of a product (Curran 1996).Life cycle assessment is a ³cradle-to-grave´ approach for assessing industrial systems. ³Cradle-to-grave´ begins with the gathering of raw materials from the earth to create the product and ends at the point whenall materials are returned to the earth.
 
 
 
What Are the Benefits of Conducting an LCA?
An LCA can help decision-makers select the product or process that results in the least impact to theenvironment. This information can be used with other factors, such as cost and performance data to selecta product or process.
Limi
tat
i
ons of Conduct
i
ng an
L
CA
P
erforming an LCA can be
resource and t
im
e
i
ntens
iv
e
.Depending upon how thorough an LCA the user wishes to conduct, gathering the data can be problematic,and the
a
v
a
il
ab
ili
ty of data
can greatly
im
pact the accuracy of the f 
i
na
l
resu
l
ts
. Therefore, it isimportant to weigh the availability of data, the time necessary to conduct the study, and the financialresources required against the projected benefits of the LCA.
 
Goa
l
Def 
i
n
i
t
i
on and Scop
i
ng
 
Goal definition and scoping is the phase of the LCA process that defines the purpose and method of including life cycle environmental impacts into the decision-making process. In this phase, the followingitems must be determined: the type of information that is needed to add value to the decision-making process, how accurate the results must be to add value, and how the results should be interpreted anddisplayed in order to be meaningful and usable.
Gett
i
ng Started
The following six basic decisions should be made at the beginning of the LCA processto make effective use of time and resources:1.
Def 
i
ne the Goa
l
(s) of the
P
roject2. Determine What
T
ype of Infor
m
at
i
on
Is Needed to Inform the Decision-Makers3. Determine the
Requ
i
red Spec
i
i
c
i
ty
 4. Determine How the
Data
Should Be
Organ
iz
ed and the Resu
l
ts D
i
sp
l
ayed
 5.
Def 
i
ne
the
Scope
of the Study6.
Deter
mi
ne
the
Ground Ru
l
es
for 
P
erforming the Work 
 
 
1
Def 
i
ne the Goa
l(
s) of the Project
Support broad environmental assessments
 
 E 
 stablish baseline information for a process
 
 Rank the relative contribution of individual steps or processes Identify data gaps
 
Support public policy
 
Support product certification
 
 Provide information and direction to decision-makers
 
Guide product and process development 
 
2
Deter
mi
ne What
T
ype of Infor
m
at
i
on Is Needed to Infor
m
the Dec
i
s
i
on-Makers
 
What is the impact to particular interested parties and stakeholders?
Which product or process causes the least environmental impact (quantifiably) overall or in each stage of its life cycle?
How will changes to the current product/process affect the environmental impacts across all life cyclestages?
Which technology or process causes the least amount of acid rain, smog formation, or damage to localtrees (or any other impact category of concern)?
How can the process be changed to reduce a specific environmental impact of concern (e.g., globalwarming)?
 
3
Deter
mi
ne the Requ
i
red Spec
i
i
c
i
ty
 
At the outset of every study, the level of specificity must be decided. In some cases, this level will beobvious from the application or intended use of the information. In other instances, there may be severaloptions to choose from, ranging from a completely generic study to one that is product-specific in everydetail. Most studies fall somewhere in between.
 4
Deter
mi
ne How the Data Shou
l
d Be Organ
iz
ed and the Resu
l
ts D
i
sp
l
ayed
LCA practitioners define how data should be organized in terms of a
 functional unit 
that appropriatelydescribes the function of the product or process being studied. Careful selection of the functional unit tomeasure and display the LCA results will improve the accuracy of the study and the usefulness of theresults.
 
5
Def 
i
ne the Scope of the Study
 
As Chapter 1 explained, an LCA includes all four stages of a product or process life cycle: raw materialacquisition, manufacturing, use/reuse/maintenance, and recycle/waste management. These product stagesare explained in more detail below. To determine whether one or all of the stages should be included inthe scope of the LCA, the following must be assessed: the goal of the study, the required accuracy of theresults, and the available time and resources. Exhibit 2-1 provides an example of life cycle stages thatcould be included in a project related to treatment technologies.
 
 
Raw Materials Acquisition
 
Manufacturing
 
 
U
se/Reuse/Maintenance
 
 
Recycle/Waste Management
 
6
Deter
mi
ne the Ground Ru
l
es for Perfor
mi
ng the Work 
 D
ocumenting Assumptions
 
Quality Assurance Procedures
-
 

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