Principles of Product-Related life cycle assessment
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The keen interest in LCAs reflects the need, by all those participating in them and by the public at large, for greater clearness and more accurate information about the assessment of products in terms of environmental performance. This is joined by the expectation that LCAs will serve to provide explicit and objective assessments which can be applied in the settlement of controversial points. LCAs can satisfy this demand for being transparent. However, owing to the problems discussed above, evaluations that can claim to be completely free from subjective and interest-related elements are not to be expected in the medium term. One reason for that is the dependency from political valuations concerning different environmental burdens and environmental quality targets.
While the methodological rules for the implementation of an inventory analysis have been extensively discussed and the methods are being applied in practice, the methods to the environmental impact assessment and valuation cannot be generalized and have to be developed within the context of each LCA.
Results that strive to gain general acceptance can hence only be expected when the performance of an LCA is placed on an adequate broad basis, involving the participation of the concerned interest groups of the scientific community and of other interested parties (“Principle of openness in the implementation of LCAs”). The composition of the participation groups, however, cannot be generally fixed and has to remain under the responsibility of the initiator of the study.
The solution of the data problem is of outstanding importance for the further development of LCAs. Contributions can be expected from the industry to provide LCA experts with primary data, and from an improved data infrastructure by means of a data bank.
To be able to achieve consensus, the conventions, rules and methods which have still to be elaborated for the further development of LCAs can only be effected within an institutional and procedural framework with the participation of all interested parties. Parallel to this, pertinent results deriving from international initiatives must also be incorporated. Because of a high demand of consensus, standardization would provide a suitable institutional frame, both national and international, in order to achieve those conventions.
KeywordsLife Cycle Assessment Environmental Impact Assessment Environmental Management System Inventory Analysis Goal Definition
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