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Life Cycle Analysis: effective environmental management tool

Product Life Cycle Analysis translates into voluntary acceptance, by the manufacturers, responsibility for the environmental impact of these materials throughout their life cycle, from conception to final destination.

What is Life Cycle Analysis?

Product Life Cycle Analysis (ACV) consists of systematically analyzing the environmental impacts of products (any change in the environment, both adverse and beneficial, globally or partially resulting from the product) at all stages of its life cycle, from the extraction or synthesis of raw materials/natural resources, passing through production, transport, use and final destination of products.

It should be seen as an environmental management tool that allows companies/organizations to understand the environmental impact of materials, of processes and products, the information obtained may lead to the development of new products and the detection of research and development areas.

This approach allows companies to determine how to improve their products., develop others and form specific business strategies.

Normative references

The TC Technical Committee 207 from ISO, created in 1993 with the aim of developing and updating the series of ISO standards 14 000, form, between others, o Subcommittee 5 (SC5), designated Product Life Cycle, publishing ISO standards 14 040 a 14 049.

SC5 has developed standards related to LCA, namely the ISO standard 14 040 - "Life Cycle Analysis - General Principles and Procedures". This standard, published in 1997, specifies the methodological tools for the application of LCA concepts.

The first two phases of LCA are covered by the ISO standard 14 041 – "Life Cycle Inventory" and by the ISO standard 14 042 – "Assessment of Life Cycle Impacts", published in 1998 e 1999, respectively.

The ISO standard 14 041 establishes requirements and recommendations for the inventory phase, What, for example, how to flow between different functions, how to deal with co-products and various types of recycling.

The ISO standard 14042 examines the inventory of materials and energy inputs and outputs to better identify their environmental significance.

Finally, the ISO standard 14 043, published in 1999, concerning the interpretation of the life cycle, analyzes the relationship between LCA and other environmental management techniques.

Analysis methodology

Assessing the life cycle allows the assessment of the environmental impacts of products, with the environmental safeguard associated with the optimal choice of materials and energy, in a holistic approach where technology, the economy and the environment have equal priorities..

Since life cycle analysis promotes the design of products with reduced environmental impact (ecoprodutos), it is relevant to answer, in the area of ​​product development, to your ecodesign. It is effectively at the design stage of the products that their characteristics and environmental performance are defined, that life cycle analysis provides.

Consequently, we must focus on the production process, establish mass and energy balances, evaluate the inputs (tickets) in order to minimize the outputs (exits), giving more added value to the product, to its overall quality.

By doing so, companies have already gained from the knowledge of their inefficiencies, with the rationalization of consumption, with the minimization of waste and emissions and the resulting savings.
The following flowchart illustrates the phases of the life cycle analysis methodology.

The definition of the objective and scope must be done in a clear and consistent way with the application of the study, the scope being defined to ensure that the breadth, the depth and detail are compatible with the stated objective..
Inventory analysis consists of data collection and calculation procedures to quantify entries (input’s) and outputs (output’s) relevant.

The analysis of environmental impacts has three phases. In the classification phase, the categories of environmental impacts are defined; in the characterization phase, the inventory data are aggregated in order to quantify the categories of environmental impacts; in the assessment phase, the different categories of environmental impacts and their relative importance assessed.
Finally, the interpretation of the results obtained is carried out.

Relationship with the Ecolabel

The results of the lifecycle analysis allow, on the other hand, substantiate the criteria for awarding the Ecolabel and properly inform consumers about the environmental quality of products, which is positively reflected in the company's social image and in its commercial strategies.

Indeed, the great interest for Ecolabel System companies lies not so much in the advantage associated with the labeling itself, relatively ephemeral, but in all the economic and ecological benefits generated in the company with the application of LCA as a global management tool for companies.

Life cycle analysis should, because, be seen as a new state of mind towards voluntary acceptance., by raw material and product manufacturers, responsibility for the environmental impact of these materials throughout their life cycle, from its conception/design to the final destination.

For more information about lifecycle analytics, or any other subject, contact us.