ArticlePDF Available
ReCiPe 2008
A life cycle impact assessment method
which comprises harmonised category indicators
at the midpoint and the endpoint level
First edition
Report I: Characterisation
Mark Goedkoop 1)
Reinout Heijungs 2)
Mark Huijbregts 3)
An De Schryver 1)
Jaap Struijs 4)
Rosalie van Zelm 3)
6 January 2009
1) PRé Consultants, Amersfoort, Netherlands
2) CML, University of Leiden, Netherlands
3) RUN, Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands
4) RIVM, Bilthoven, Netherlands
Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a methodological tool used to quantitatively analyse the life cycle of prod-
ucts/activities within the context of environmental impact. The application of this tool underwent major changes
during the 1990s. It was initially developed to compare clearly defined end product alternatives, such as various
forms of milk packaging or baby diapers. However, it has been rapidly incorporated into higher strategic levels,
including decision- and policy-making at the firm/corporate levels. Life cycle assessment is currently used for
assessing a wide range of products and activities, from ecolabeling to product design as well as energy systems,
food production and transportation alternatives; it now clearly extends beyond only an assessment of end prod-
ucts. The current debate to which LCA is being subjected is closely linked to the involvement of stakeholders
and the systematic use of quality assurance aspects, including peer review and uncertainty analyses. At an inter-
national level, the process of standardisation has yielded an ISO-standard (the 14040-series) and the establish-
ment of working groups within the scientific community (SETAC) and within UNEP. At the same time, devel-
opments at the national level and within individual universities research centres and consultancy firms have led
to a further development of procedures and methods for carrying out an LCA.
These developments clearly demonstrate that there is no single ‘gold standard’ method that is applicable in all
situations. It has been stated that LCA is goal- and scope-dependent, and this most certainly also applies to LCA
methodologies. However, at the same time, the autonomous developments in LCA have sometimes led to dis-
crepancies between methods that cannot be explained by necessity alone, and for which historical factors play an
important role.
One such example is the development of midpoint-oriented and endpoint-oriented methods for life cycle impact
assessment (LCIA). A number of methods used for LCIA convert the emissions of hazardous substances and
extractions of natural resources into impact category indicators at the midpoint level (such as acidification, cli-
mate change and ecotoxicity), while others employ imp