LCIA: Life Cycle Impact Assessment
Time: Wednesday, 31/Aug/2011: 9:00am - 10:45am
Session Chair: Ralph K. Rosenbaum
Session Chair: Sebastien Humbert
Location: Room 3
1st floor


From science to support decision making: Recommendations and challenges in life cycle impact assessment

Serenella Sala1, Miguel Brandao1, Rana Pant1, Michael Hauschild2, David Pennington1

1Joint Research Center, Italy; 2Technical University of Denmark, Denmark

In the last years, several methodologies have been developed for LCIA and some efforts have been made towards harmonisation. In this context, JRC led a “science to policy” process which resulted in the ILCD International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook .

ILCD Handbook is a series of detailed technical documents, providing guidance for good practice in Life Cycle Assessment in business and government. The ILCD Handbook is based on the existing international standards on LCA, ISO 14040/44, that provide the indispensable framework for LCA. This framework, however, leaves the individual practitioner with a range of choices that can change the results and conclusions of an assessment. Further guidance is therefore needed to support consistency and quality assurance.

For Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA), the Handbook provide guidelines to methods and assessments to analyse the emissions into air, water and soil, as well as the natural resources consumed in terms of their contributions to different impacts on human health, natural environment, and availability of resources.

Those guidelines come from a comprehensive process of selection of methods based on a set of scientific and stakeholder acceptance criteria and involving extensive hearings of domain experts, advisory groups and the public. In this “from science to policy” process a number of research needs, critical issues and challenges for Life Cycle Impact Assessment emerged.

A set of criteria was developed to identify methods and models to be recommended for use in a common integrated framework, such as Life Cycle Assessment. The criteria include scientific, applicability and stakeholder acceptance issues.

Methods and models for LCIA were reviewed, covering different impact categories such as climate change, ozone depletion, photochemical ozone formation, respiratory inorganics, ionising radiation, acidification, eutrophication, human toxicity, ecotoxicity, land use and resource depletion.

Starting from the first pre-selection of existing methods and the definition of specific criteria, a set of recommended methods for each impact category at both midpoint and endpoint were selected.

The ILCD Handbook can serve as “parent” document for developing sector- and product-specific guidance documents, criteria and simplified tools. This has been set up to provide governments and businesses with a basis for assuring quality and consistency of life cycle data and improving robustness of impact assessment.

Resource efficiency potential analysis as tool for life cycle management

Klaus Wiesen1, Michael Lettenmeier1, Holger Rohn2

1Wuppertal Institute, Germany; 2Trifolium, Germany

It has become obvious that a life cycle perspective is essential for production sites and manufacturing processes to consider sustainability aspects. However, there are several ways to assess the life cycle impacts of goods and services regarding various impact criteria. One central sustainability aspect is the use of natural resources: Despite of increasing prices for natural resources during the past 30 years, global consumption of natural resources is still growing. Although resource use leads to ecological, economical and social problems, limited effort has been done so far to decrease the natural resource use of goods and services. Resource efficiency is already on the political agenda (EU and national resource strategies), but there are still remarkable knowledge gaps on the effectiveness of resource efficiency in different fields. Thus identifying and analysing the resource efficiency potential of technologies, products and strategies is necessary. This paper is based on results from a joint effort of 9 German research institutions for assessing resource efficiency potentials in the framework of the German project “material efficiency and resource conservation” (2007-2010,

The paper describes the role of resource efficiency for life cycle management. In the first part it is shown how resource efficient technologies, products and strategies can be identified and how their resource efficiency potential can be quantified on a national level. On the basis of a literature- and expert-based identification process, 20 topics were chosen to be assessed in terms of their resource efficiency potential. The selected 20 topics cover a broad field of relevant technologies, products and strategies like energy supply and storage, Green IT, transport, foodstuffs, agricultural engineering, design strategies, lightweight construction and "utility instead of possession". To assess the life cycle wide resource use, the material footprint has been applied as a reliable indicator. Also further qualitative criteria were considered.

In the second part of the paper, examples of the technologies, strategies and products analysed are given, showing how resource efficiency of the specific applications can be increased. Additionally a summary of the resource efficiency potential analyses of the 20 topics based on their calculated material footprint is given. The results of the paper show that resource efficiency can be used as basis for life cycle management and to achieve a remarkably lower natural resource use. However, the actual potential depends on the specific technology, product and strategy studied. The consideration of further rebound effects also should not be prevented.

Integrating human health impacts from occupational indoor emissions in LCA

Greg Doudrich1, Manuele Margni1, Thitiporn Sukaew2, Louise Deschenes1, Sebastien Humbert3, Olivier Jolliet2

1CIRAIG, Canada; 2University of Michigan, United States of America; 3Quantis International, Switzerland

Impacts on human health are traditionally calculated multiplying emission inventory with characterization factors (CFs), these latter being the product of an intake fraction and an effect factor. Though the same framework can be applied to indoor emissions, impacts from indoor emissions has yet been only rarely assessed in life cycle assessment studies. However, it has been demonstrated that indoor concentrations can be higher than outdoor ones. This, combined with a higher exposure time leads to higher indoor intakes.

In the case of occupational exposure, data on indoor emissions are rarely available, but concentrations are often measured. We therefore developed new model approach moving from the traditional emission-intake to a novel concentration-intake impact assessment framework. Substance specific occupational indoor intakes were calculated for a given industrial sector, combining labour statistics and indoor measured concentrations. Coupled with effect factors taken from the USEtox model, CFs were calculated in Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALY) per dollar of sale.

The magnitude of occupational impact due to indoor emissions were then compared with the impact of outdoor emissions within 40 industrial sectors and for 35 substances. Both indoor and outdoor impacts of each sector were related to the same one dollar of sale.

This new method is applied to a case study of an office chair, where impacts of occupational indoor emissions were integrated and compared with the ones generated by household and outdoor emissions throughout its life cycle. Direct and indirect occupational indoor impact (impact induced in all the supply chain) were calculated by means of national input-output tables.

CFs results for the 40 industrial sectors showed that styrene, dichloromethane and ethanol appear to be the most impacting indoor substances. Typical indoor CFs ranged from 0.2 to 3 μDALY/$ while outdoor CFs range from 2E-5 to 9E-3 μDALY/$ for the substances considered. The case study showed that occupational indoor impact for one chair is 100 to 10’000 times higher than household and outdoor impacts when considering its whole life cycle.

In conclusion, this new approach demonstrates that it is important and feasible to integrate occupational indoor into life cycle impact assessment (LCIA). Also, onsite specific CFs can be calculated with only few input parameters: indoor concentrations and worker-hours exposure per unit of output. Furthermore, the case study clearly shows that impact on human health from occupational exposure is far from being negligible and should therefore be included into existing LCIA methodologies.

Using USETOX for assessing ecotoxic impacts of products for the French official environmental labelling

Jerome Payet


The Grenelle de l'Environnement requires to quantify and to present environmental performances of products as a supplementary information supporting consumer choice. This change in regulation is managed in collaboration with companies since more than 2 years. In 2011 an experimentation with volonteer companies is starting and fisrt labels on products are expected for summer. Nevertheless. tricky issues has to be solved, and a nice illustration is the use of the USETox model for assessing ecotoxic impacts of shampoo and detergents. Numerous products are indeed emitted directly in water and the decision was taken in the working groups to estimate direct impact on water. After a review of several model, USETox was finally selected. Nevertheless, most of the substances used in shampoo and detergents are not yet covered by USETox and it is necessary to improve the coverage of the substances in parallel with the developements of the LCA studies. Cycleco was requested by the french government to support companies which need to use the USETox model. The presentation will then illustrate the main issue of the Official french label, and it will also present the main limitations and the best promises of a USETox model at the research stage when confronted to regulatory requirements.

Review on land use considerations in life cycle assessment: Methodological perspectives for marine ecosystems

Juliette Langlois1,2, Arnaud Hélias1,2, Jean-Philippe Delgenes2, Jean-Philippe Steyer2

1Montpellier SupAgro, France; 2INRA, France

Land Use is a midpoint impact category within the Life Cycle Assessment methodology, including impacts on the environment of occupation and transformation of a piece of land for human activities. On the one hand, land is considered as a resource, whose depletion is quantified. On the other hand it is also considered as a support of ecosystem services, whose quality can be altered. With the recent development of endpoint damage categories in the last ten years, land use has been significantly improved, linking inventory items to environmental damages. The methods ReCiPe and EcoIndicator99 both consider that the main ecosystem service of land is to be a life support. Then, the quality changes are based on biodiversity data. Different other methodologies have been developed. Some of them also consider the life support function of the land, but using different indicators, and/or different levels of integration of biodiversity than the two methods previously quoted. Some other methodologies even consider other ecosystem services, using indicators of soil quality, biotic production potential and many other indicators.

With the decreasing of fertile land availability, linked to the population pressure and to the development of biobased mass consumption products (biopolymers and biofuels), more and more interests are given to the potential of biomass production from the oceans. At the present time, the cultivation of algae in open ocean is limited compared to the production of other terrestrial feedstocks. Nevertheless if this kind of production went to increase significantly, pollution transfers from the terrestrial to the marine ecosystem due the habitat change and offshore occupation could not be identified through LCA in its current state. After a review on how to assess the impacts of land use on ecosystem quality, this study focuses on the different methodological aspects that need to be investigated to take into account the impact of a sea use on the marine ecosystems in LCA, with an issue on macroalgae cultivation: (1) specificity of the sea in terms of ecosystem services, typology of biomes, typology of uses, data availability, (2) specificity of the macroalgae cultivation compared with other offshore activities.

Comparison of allocation and impact assessment methodologies on the life cycle assessment of rape and sunflower seed oils

Alexandra C Hetherington1, Marcelle C McManus1, David A Gray2

1University of Bath, United Kingdom; 2University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

As part of the DEFRA Funded Sustainable Emulsion Ingredients through Bio-Innovation (SEIBI) project, Attributional Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) models of both Sunflower and Rapeseed Oils have been developed to identify the environmental burdens of both production systems from cultivation through to factory gate, using existing technologies. This paper outlines the effect of changing co-product allocation and Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) methodologies on the calculated environmental burdens of the systems.

The comparison of LCIA methodologies is performed using ReCipE and Eco-Indicator 99 (EI-99) methodologies and the environmental loads of both systems are presented, both in their entirety and and as a breakdown of the individual processes. This provides an indication of the effect that use of different LCIA methodologies has on the results.

Analysis using EI-99 caused a 6.6% increase in the relative contribution to environmental load from the rapeseed cultivation process when compared with analysis using ReCipE, with a 5.5% increased contribution for Sunflowerseed cultivation.

Co-product allocation for the extraction and refining of the oils was performed on the basis of economic value initially, since the majority of studies utilise this technique. It was then repeated using mass as the allocation attribute to ascertain to what extent differing allocation methodologies within part of the LCA model would affect the end results.

Using an economic allocation entails that within the extraction stage, 76.9% and 82.4% of the impacts are allocated to Rapeseed Oil and Sunflower Seed Oil respectively, rather than their meal co-products. When this is changed to mass allocation, the oils both have 40% allocated to them. Within the refining stage, economic allocation attributes both oils with 66.67% of the load, whereas mass allocation increases this to 96.45%.

Significant changes in the relative contributions of the each of the processes within the system were observed, with the relative contribution of cultivation decreasing by 10.7% for Rapeseed Oil and 12.4% for Sunflower seed oil, when the allocation method was switched from economic to mass allocation. Likewise, the contribution from the extraction process decreased by 3.2% and 3.1% for rapeseed and Sunflowerseed respectively. Increased contributions were observed for both refining and transportation, with the former attracting an increase of 7.8% for Rapeseed and 7.0% for Sunflower and the transportation contribution increasing by 6.1% and 8.5% for the two seeds respectively.

Single issue assessment versus full life cycle assessment: The case of a monocrystalline PV panel

Alessandro Manzardo, Anna Mazzi, Benedetta Levorato, Monia Niero, Antonio Scipioni

University of Padova, Italy

The consequences of climate change and lack of sustainability of current energy models are debated at international level. The scientific community, to support the development of sustainable policies in this area, has for years invested in the development of so-called renewable energy sources and in assessing the impacts that this technologies generate along their lifecycle.

In literature there are several studies on the application of these technologies based on the life cycle approach. However, research published to date are limited to submit only two indicators of environmental impact of these technologies: Carbon Footprint and the Energy Payback Time. Therefore a complete environmental assessment of these technologies is missing.

This study, conducted in 2010, presents the results of a life cycle assessment of a mono-crystalline silicon solar panel of 1 kWp. The objective of this research was to conduct a complete environmental impacts assessment according to the standards ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 in order to verify the existence of any other significant impact categories beyond those already considered in literature.

The study takes into account all the stages of the life cycle of the solar panel except from the transport from place of production to the installation site and end of life treatment. The results of the impact assessment are presented in different categories of assessment; the methods considered are the Eco-Indicator 99, the Cumulative Energy Demand and the IPCC 2007. The greater part of the data relative to the product were primary data; they were supplied by a manufacturer of photovoltaic panels of the northern Italy.

The application of these methods of evaluation showed that there are other significant categories of impact (Respiratory Inorganics) than those commonly considered in literature. The results demonstrate that, to support the choices and decisions in the field of renewable energy, is not sufficient to limit the impact assessment to individual indicators but it is necessary to extend the evaluation to other impact categories and to conduct a full life cycle assessment.