The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (INT J LIFE CYCLE ASS )


The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (Int J LCA) is the first journal devoted entirely to LCA. LCA has become a recognized instrument to assess the ecological burdens and impacts connected with products and systems, or, more generally, with human activities. The LCA-Journal - which has been expanded by a section on Life Cycle Management (LCM) - is a forum for: Scientists developing LCA and LCM; LCA and LCM practitioners; Managers concerned with environmental aspects of products; Governmental environmental agencies responsible for product quality; Scientific and industrial societies involved in LCA development; Ecological institutions and bodies.

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    International journal of life cycle assessment (Online)
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Publications in this journal

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Purpose So far no calculations have been made for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from forestry in East Norway. This region stands for 80 % of the Norwegian timber production. The aim of this study was to assess the annual GHG emissions of Norwegian forestry in the eastern parts of the country from seed production to final felling and transport of timber to sawmill and wood processing industry (cradle-to-gate inventory), based on specific Norwegian data. Methods The life cycle inventory was conducted with SimaPro applying primary and secondary data from Norwegian forestry. GHG emissions of fossil-related inputs from the technosphere were calculated for the functional unit of 1 m3 timber extracted and delivered to industry gate in East Norway in 2010. The analysis includes seed and seedling production, silvicultural operations, forest road construction and upgrading, thinning, final felling, timber forwarding and timber transport on road and rail from the forest to the industry. Norwegian time studies of forestry machines and operations were used to calculate efficiency, fuel consumption and transport distances. Due to the lack of specific Norwegian data in Ecoinvent, we designed and constructed unit processes based on primary and secondary data from forestry in East Norway. Results and discussion GHG emissions from forestry in East Norway amounted to 17.893 kg CO2-equivalents per m3 of timber delivered to industry gate in 2010. Road transport of timber accounted for almost half of the total GHG emissions, final felling and forwarding for nearly one third of the GHG emissions. Due to longer road transport distances, pulpwood had higher impact on the climate change category than saw timber. The construction of forest roads had the highest impact on the natural land transformation category. The net CO2 emissions of fossil CO2 corresponded to 2.3 % of the CO2 sequestered by 1 m3 of growing forest trees and were compared to a calculation of biogenic CO2 release from the forest floor as a direct consequence of harvesting. Conclusions Shorter forwarding and road transport distances, increased logging truck size and higher proportion of railway transport may result in lower emissions per volume of transported timber. A life cycle assessment of forestry may also consider impacts on environmental categories other than climate change. Biogenic CO2 emissions from the soil may be up to 10 times higher than the fossil-related emissions, at least in a short-term perspective, and are highly dependent on stand rotation length.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 09/2014; 19(9).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Ceramic tiles play a strategic role in the Italian market; currently, the Italian production is of 367.2 million m2 (Confindustria Ceramica 2012). In 2009, Italy was positioned as the world’s fourth largest producer of ceramic tiles, producing 368 million m2 of the world’s total production of 1,735 million m2 Giacomini (Ceram World Rev 88:52–68, 2010). Therefore, there is an ongoing effort to create innovations in the products offered and their manufacturing processes, in order to better compete on the market and to create eco-friendly products. Recently, the Italian Ceramic District has increased its focus on environmental issues with the aim of protecting natural resources and reducing the energy and material consumption. For this reason, a new product was born in the Italian Ceramic District, namely, a large thin ceramic tile (dimensions 1,000 mm × 3,000 mm × 3.5 mm) reinforced with a fibreglass backing, which gives the product excellent resistance and flexibility properties. The aim was to manufacture a new product with lower environmental impact than the traditional one. The production of a large thin ceramic tile requires, in fact, a lower quantity of materials, transports and energy consumptions comparing to the same metres square of traditional ceramic tile. At the present, no comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have been performed between traditional and innovative ceramic stoneware tiles. This study analyses, for the first time, a life cycle of the innovative ceramic product (porcelain stoneware) developed by a company of the Italian Ceramic District. Methods The analysis is performed using the LCA methodology, in order to identify environmental impacts, energy consumption and CO2 equivalent emissions that occur during extraction of raw materials, transportation, production, material handling, distribution and end-of-life stages within a cradle to grave perspective. Results and conclusions LCA analysis indicates that the highest environmental impact mainly affects the respiratory inorganics impact category due to base slip production (27.62 %), caused by the transport of the raw materials and by non-renewable impact category due to both the pasting phase (21.31 %) and the two-component adhesive manufacture. The major greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are related to the production of polyurethane, a component of the adhesive used in the pasting stage, and to the natural gas consumption in the firing process.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 09/2014; 19(9).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Health care infection control has led to increased utilization of disposable medical devices, which has subsequently led to adverse environmental effects attributed to health care and its supply chain. In dental practice, the dental bur is a commonly used instrument that can be either reused or used once and then disposed. To evaluate the disparities in environmental impacts of disposable and reusable dental burs, a comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed. Methods The functional unit was defined as one reusable dental bur, where the maximum instances reused was 30 (or in the case of a disposable, the equivalent functional unit would be 30 disposable dental burs). The system boundary included all cradle-to-grave aspects of both single-use and reused burs, including raw material extraction, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, and disposal. Primary data included the following: operating parameters for ultrasonic cleaning, manual cleaning, and autoclaving of the burs. The secondary data for raw material extraction and production of dental bur and packaging were obtained directly from life cycle inventory databases. Sensitivity analyses were also performed with respect to ultrasonic and autoclave loading. Results and discussion Findings from this research showed that when the ultrasonic and autoclave were loaded optimally, reusable burs had 40 % less of an environmental impact than burs used on a disposable basis. When the autoclave and ultrasonic were loaded to approximately two-third capacity, four environmental impact categories favored reusable burs (i.e., ozone depletion, smog, respiratory effects, exotoxicity), and four impact categories environmentally favored disposables (i.e., acidification, eutrophication, carcinogenics, and non-carcinogenics). When the autoclave and ultrasonic were loaded to approximately one-third capacity, reusable dental burs posed more negative environmental impacts in eight of nine environmental impact categories when compared to disposable burs. Conclusions Operational efficiency of ultrasonic and autoclave cleaning equipment should be emphasized to enhance the environmental performance of bur reuse. In fact, improper loading of the ultrasonic and autoclave can lead to greater adverse environmental impacts than if the burs were treated as disposables. The environmental and economic impacts associated with bur reuse are expected to be similar with other dental devices that are designated as disposable but are capable of being reused (e.g., scalpels, forceps).
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 09/2014; 19(9).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Sugarcane bagasse is one of the main agro-industrial residues which can be used to produce wood-based panels. However, more investigations related to its environmental performance assessment are needed, focusing on questions such as: Does it provide environmental benefits? What are its main environmental impacts? Could it substitute wood as raw material? Accordingly, this paper presents a life cycle assessment (LCA) study of particle board manufactured with sugarcane bagasse residues. Methods The cradle-to-gate assessment of 1 m3 of particle board made with sugarcane bagasse (PSB) considered three main subsystems: bagasse generation, bagasse distribution, and PSB production. For the inventory of PSB, dataset from two previous LCA studies related to the conventional particle board production and the ethanol life cycle for the Brazilian context were used. The allocation criterion for the bagasse generation subsystem was 9.08 % (economic base). The potential environmental impact phase was assessed by applying the CML and USEtox methods. PSB was compared with the conventional particle board manufactured in Brazil by the categories of the CML and USETox, and including land use indicators. Finally, two scenarios were analyzed to evaluate the influence of the allocation criteria and the consumption of sugarcane bagasse. Results and discussion All hotspots identified by CML and USETox methods are mainly related to the PSB production subsystem (24–100 % of impacts) due to heavy fuel oil, electricity, and urea-formaldehyde resin supply chain. The bagasse generation subsystem was more relevant to the eutrophication category (75 % of impacts). The bagasse distribution subsystem was not relevant because the impacts on all categories were lower than 1 %. PSB can substitute the conventional particle board mainly because of its lower contribution to abiotic depletion and ecotoxicity. Regarding land use impacts, PSB showed lower values according to all indicators (38–40 % of all impacts), which is explained by the lower demand for land occupation in comparison to that of the traditional particle board. Conclusions PSB can replace the traditional particle board due to its better environmental performance. The analysis of the economic allocation criterion was relevant only for the EP category, being important to reduce diesel and N-based fertilizers use during sugarcane cultivation. Regarding the influence of the sugarcane bagasse consumption, it is suggested that the sugarcane bagasse be mixed up to 75 % during particle board manufacturing so that good quality properties and environmental performance of panels can be provided.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 08/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Life cycle inventory (LCI) data are region-specific because energy fuel mixtures and methods of production often differ from region to region. LCI database examples include US LCI, Ecoinvent v.2, and NIST, each of which is country-specific. Thus, the main aim of this study is to show that Egypt is in need of an Egyptian National LCI (ENLCI) database and to focus on the means of developing a database specific to Egypt. Methods Arab countries have thus far engaged in virtually no life cycle assessment (LCA) studies, and a significant neglect of this matter is in evidence for the continent of Africa and, in particular, Egypt. Thus, this study suggests an organizational and managerial framework for the development of a national LCI database and sheds light on the required LCI database categories and data quality for practical solutions reflecting who is equipped to do what in order to keep pace with the world. Results The results from this review are useful to standardize the study of the life cycle assessment concept in Egypt; to form a foundation for development of an Egyptian database for facilitating a cleaner environment; to encourage stakeholders, such as the environmental agencies, Egyptian Housing and Building Research Center, and the Ministry of Industry; to propose an organizational framework in which they play a central role; and to provide investment to initiate development. Conclusions The analysis indicates that the development of a LCI database specific to Egypt is difficult because Egypt has various technical and organizational challenges, but a roadmap of actions to be taken to move ahead is provided. The success of this roadmap depends on the capacity for developing the necessary technical and financial support and on strong partnerships with industry, government, LCA professionals, and academia.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 08/2014; 19(8).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose Environmental toxicity potential is the potential harm of a chemical substance or a compound that is released into the environment. Such harm is present in the generation of electricity using fossil fuels that release toxins that result in environmental pollution that would certainly have serious implications on human health and the ecosystem quality. This study assessed the environmental toxicity potential of the centralized grid-connected electricity generating systems for the years 2000, 2015, 2020, 2026 and 2030, according to the Tanzania Electricity Supply Company Limited, TANESCO’s power system master plan of the year 2009. Methods Life cycle assessment, which is a globally and widely used tool for assessing what impact product or services have during their life cycle, from production stage to disposal stage was used to assess the electricity generating systems based on process analysis. The life cycle impact assessment was calculated using CML 2001 version 2.05. Results and discussion The results show that environmental toxicity potentials increase significantly for the years 2000, 2015, 2020, 2026 and 2030. In addition, the contribution of electricity generation from fossil fuels viz. coal, natural gas, heavy fuel and industrial diesel oils to the environmental toxicity potentials are high as compared to that of hydroelectricity. Conclusions The result suggests that increasing the share of hydroelectricity would significantly help to reduce the environmental toxicity potentials and ultimately the environmental profile of the electricity generation could be improved.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 07/2014; 19(7).
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose The analysis of uncertainty in life cycle assessment (LCA) studies has been a topic for more than 10 years, and many commercial LCA programs now feature a sampling approach called Monte Carlo analysis. Yet, a full Monte Carlo analysis of a large LCA system, for instance containing the 4,000 unit processes of ecoinvent v2.2, is rarely carried out by LCA practitioners. One reason for this is computation time. An alternative faster than Monte Carlo method is analytical error propagation by means of a Taylor series expansion; however, this approach suffers from being explained in the literature in conflicting ways, hampering implementation in most software packages for LCA. The purpose of this paper is to compare the two different approaches from a theoretical and practical perspective. Methods In this paper, we compare the analytical and sampling approaches in terms of their theoretical background and their mathematical formulation. Using three case studies—one stylized, one real-sized, and one input–output (IO)-based—we approach these techniques from a practical perspective and compare them in terms of speed and results. Results Depending on the precise question, a sampling or an analytical approach provides more useful information. Whenever they provide the same indicators, an analytical approach is much faster but less reliable when the uncertainties are large. Conclusions For a good analysis, analytical and sampling approaches are equally important, and we recommend practitioners to use both whenever available, and we recommend software suppliers to implement both.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 07/2014; 19(7).
  • The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 06/2014;
  • The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 05/2014;
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose The nature of end-of-life (EoL) processes is highly uncertain for constructions built today. This uncertainty is often neglected in life cycle assessments (LCAs) of construction materials. This paper tests how EoL assumptions influence LCA comparisons of two alternative roof construction elements: glue-laminated wooden beams and steel frames. The assumptions tested include the type of technology and the use of attributional or consequential modelling approaches. Methods The study covers impact categories often considered in the construction industry: total and non-renewable primary energy demand, water depletion, global warming, eutrophication and photo-chemical oxidant creation. The following elements of the EoL processes are tested: energy source used in demolition, fuel type used for transportation to the disposal site, means of disposal and method for handling allocation problems of the EoL modelling. Two assumptions regarding technology development are tested: no development from today’s technologies and that today’s low-impact technologies have become representative for the average future technologies. For allocating environmental impacts of the waste handling to by-products (heat or recycled material), an attributional cut-off approach is compared with a consequential substitution approach. A scenario excluding all EoL processes is also considered. Results and discussion In all comparable scenarios, glulam beams have clear environmental benefits compared to steel frames, except for in a scenario in which steel frames are recycled and today’s average steel production is substituted, in which impacts are similar. The choice of methodological approach (attributional, consequential or fully disregarding EoL processes) does not seem to influence the relative performance of the compared construction elements. In absolute terms, four factors are shown to be critical for the results: whether EoL phases are considered at all, whether recycling or incineration is assumed in the disposal of glulam beams, whether a consequential or attributional approach is used in modelling the disposal processes and whether today’s average technology or a low-impact technology is assumed for the substituted technology. Conclusions The results suggest that EoL assumptions can be highly important for LCA comparisons of construction materials, particularly in absolute terms. Therefore, we recommend that EoL uncertainties are taken into consideration in any LCA of long-lived products. For the studied product type, LCA practitioners should particularly consider EoL assumptions regarding the means of disposal, the expected technology development of disposal processes and any substituted technology and the choice between attributional and consequential approaches.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 04/2014; 19(4):723-731.
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    ABSTRACT: As the debate on how to effectively link life cycle analysis (LCA) and negative externalities of the products or processes is still unsolved, an improved methodology that involves the private and social (environment) profitability to petrochemical projects in Mexico is presented. We incorporate both environmental impacts, identified through the LCA, using the eco-costs model, within a project appraisal analysis. The eco-costs are a single LCA-based indicator of environmental burden, based on the concept of marginal prevention costs, i.e. costs required to bring back the environmental degradation to a sustainable level.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 03/2014; 19(3):517.
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose This study aims to contribute to an improved understanding of the environmental implications of offshore power grid and wind power development pathways. To achieve this aim, we present two assessments. First, we investigate the impacts of a North Sea power grid enabling enhanced trade and integration of offshore wind power. Second, we assess the benefit of the North Sea grid and wind power through a comparison of scenarios for power generation in affected countries. Methods The grid scenario explored in the first assessment is the most ambitious scenario of the Windspeed project and is the result of cost minimization analysis using a transmission-expansion-planning model. We develop a hybrid life cycle inventory for array cables; high voltage, direct current (HVDC) links; and substations. The functional unit is 1 kWh of electricity transmitted. The second assessment compares two different energy scenarios of Windspeed for the North Sea and surrounding countries. Here, we utilize a life cycle inventory for offshore grid components together with an inventory for a catalog of power generation technologies from Ecoinvent and couple these inventories with grid configurations and electricity mixes determined by the optimization procedure in Windspeed. Results and discussion Developing, operating, and dismantling the grid cause emissions of 2.5 g CO2-Eq per kWh electricity transmission or 36 Mt CO2-Eq in total. HVDC cables are the major cause of environmental damage, causing, for example, half of total climate change effects. The next most important contributors are substations and array cabling used in offshore wind parks. Toxicity and eutrophication effects stem largely from leakages from disposed copper and iron mine tailings and overburden. Results from the comparison of two scenarios demonstrate a substantial environmental benefit from the North Sea grid extension and the associated wind power development compared with an alternative generation of electricity from fossil fuels. Offshore grid and wind power, however, entail an increased use of metals and, hence, a higher metal depletion indicator. Conclusions We present the first life cycle assessment of a large offshore power grid, using the results of an energy planning model as input. HVDC links are the major cause of environmental damage. There are differences across impact categories with respect to which components or types of activities that are responsible for damage. The North Sea grid and wind power are environmentally beneficial by an array of criteria if displacing fossil fuels, but cause substantial metal use.
    The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 02/2014;

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