How to Conduct a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)


How to Conduct a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Have in mind and understand that conducting LCA or life cycle analysis and assessment can be highly challenging at first. This is especially true for beginners that have to consider all stages of the lifecycle from raw material extraction to the point of waste management.

If you wish to start working in this particular area, you should avoid entering the challenging, confusing, and difficult perspective so that you can begin.

Therefore, you should understand that we want to present you the steps that you should consider when it comes to conducting life cycle assessment analysis.

You should have in mind that every single LCA study and analysis features these aspects: quantitative aspects that include impact assessment, inventory analysis, as well as qualitative elements that include scope and goal definition and interpretation.

We can easily say that LCA analysis uses these four stages so that you can get the most out of it:

Goal and Scope Definition

It includes the answers on questions why you are carrying out the study, as well as level of details, system boundaries, and functional unit that you should consider during an analysis.

Inventory Analysis

At the same time, this particular part of the process includes the idea of quantifying and identifying energy usage, collecting data as well as environmental releases. Have in mind that you will have to construct a flow diagram of the entire process so that you can make the analysis more transparent than before.

Impact Assessment

The idea is to assess al potential effects of material usage, water, and energy within the environmental releases so that you can improve everything you made in inventory analysis.

Interpretation

Finally, you should interpret and evaluate all the results that you have got throughout the impact assessment and inventory analysis so that you can get recommendations and conclusions in the long run.

Have in mind that vital steps that you should consider during LCA analysis are:

You Should Consider All Stages From The Start To The End

For example, if you wish to conduct a lifestyle assessment so that you can determine the amount of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions that are associated with the production of whey. The first step is using raw milk production, while the last one includes the waste disposal that provides packaging and everything you have used so that you can create the final product.

As soon as you ensure that you included all stages you want, then you should start creating flow diagram that will feature all unit processes as well as material streams that you should look into throughout the process. At the same time, you should decide what things are essential to include and what you should avoid adding since these additions are not affecting the final process.

Therefore, if you take an example of whey production, you should consider scope and goals of your study, and you can implement various stages of raw milk production such as harvesting, rearing, storing, as well as transportation and other things that may lead to the final product.

We recommend you to exclude different life cycle stages such as processes, activity types and avoid implementing products that are irrelevant to the goal of analysis and study that you wish to create. Therefore, always use relevant aspects so that you can reach the best results possible.

Focus On Unit Processes and Gather Data

As soon as you finish with the flow diagram, which is the crucial step in gathering data and creating different unit processes for the calculation you wish to make. Therefore, before you start collecting data for all stages of the lifecycle, you have to think about details as well as coverage that you should define throughout the study.

We are talking about the idea that you should specify how thorough you wish to be inside the lifecycle stages. Have in mind that a whey production company requires laborers so that they can transport and create the entire process. Therefore, you should determine whether you would apply and implement these factors inside the LCA analysis or not.

Of course, have in mind that more complete an LCA study is, the more time consuming and challenging it will be to assess. For instance, the term cut-off is one of the things, which is shown by percentage and includes both outputs and inputs of the system that you should exclude from the study you are making.

Therefore, when you have 7% cut-off, it means that you have prohibited flows that are not contributing to the final research you wish to create.

Gathering Data

When you finish with the defining of coverage and study, now you should start collecting relevant data that will help you along the way. Have in mind that data collection is one of the most time consuming and essential parts that you should do so that you can carry out an LCA analysis.

Therefore, if you wish to plan a data collection, the first thing that you should do is to check the sources from which you can take all relevant data that will help you conduct an analysis. We are talking about data that you can collect on-site such as interviews, measurement, as well as annual reports, and we call it primary data.

On the other hand, secondary data includes generic sources such as previous LCA studies as well as databases that you created before. In general, data collection is a highly challenging and vital procedure that you should undergo.

Functional Unit

The best very to start with calculation is to define this particular term, which is a quantified description of performance that will happen in product systems.

At the same time, the functional unit is the central part of LCA, which will provide you all references so that you can normalize data that you have gathered throughout the process.

As you can see, this systematic procedure will help you start with LCA study so that you can address all relevant information that will help you along the way.

Everything depends on data availability as well as gathering correct information so that you can improve your overall result.


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