History of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

History of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

We have to start by saying that history of life cycle assessment began in the previous century, back in the '60s. The main idea was the general concern of experts when it comes to limitations of energy resources and materials.

Therefore, this particular perspective allowed us to create an interest on how to find ways to account the energy usage so that both industries and individuals could preserve resource supplies and find alternative ways to protect the environment that surrounds us.

The Beginnings

One of the first publications that entered the market and that sparked the concerns about energy depletion is when Harold Smith created calculation of cumulative energy requirements for chemical products and intermediates during the World Energy Conference back in 1963.

Later throughout the '60s, other publications entered the market such as: "A Blueprint for Survival, "The Limits to Growth and many more that predicted how world's changing trends and populations would have higher demands for energy resources and raw materials as time goes by.

According to these predictions, the depletion of fossil fuels in combination with climatologically changes that are resulting from massive waste as well as increased heat that affected us.

This particular idea created an interest in which experts started to calculate the energy use for both inputs and outputs of industrial processes. During these years, numerous studies were published and performed with an idea to determine the costs of alternative sources of energy.

For instance, The Coca Cola Company created an internal study that created a foundation for the specific methods of life cycle inventory analysis across the USA.

They have compared with other beverage containers with an idea to determine which one features the lowest effects on the environment and how to create the one that does not affect the limited amount of natural resources.

According to this particular study, the usage of fuels and raw materials, as well as environmental loadings, is essential for maintaining the perfect perspective.

At the same time, other companies across Europe and the USA created a similar life cycle inventory comparisons and analysis during the early '70s.

Of course, they used data from available sources that were publically available such as technical papers and government documents, but the problem was that specific technical details and data were not available.

They have created a process of quantifying the environmental releases and resource use of products, and that became known as REPA or Resource and Environmental Profile Analysis that started in the USA.

On the other hand, in Europe, they created Ecoblance with the same idea. We can say that public interest groups started encouraging industry to ensure that every single information is accurate and released in the public domain because that was the best way to fight resource shortages.

During this particular period, organizations created standard or protocol for the overall research methodology based on developing studies that surround us.

At the same time, you should have in mind that multi-step methodology involved numerous assumptions, which means that it was not wholly accurate in general.

That is the main reason why throughout these years, the techniques, as well as assumptions, underwent the review of significant industry representatives and EPA, which brought us to a point in which methodologies were created.

Creating Meaningful Methodology

During the second part of the '70s, experts gained interest in comprehensive studies due to the oil crisis that affected the world around us as well as environmental concerns that were applicable in every single industry.

Have in mind that during this time, life cycle analysis started to implement a standardized methodology that brought us to a point in which two studies were published per year, and most of them focused on energy requirements and what should society do to avoid issues.

European interest started to expand after they established Environment Directorate, and that is when life cycle assessment practitioners created the same perspective and methodology as in the USA.

Apart from general goal to create ways to standardize pollution regulations, this particular directorate created the Liquid Food Container Directive that regulated the companies to monitor raw materials and energy consumption as well as solid waste generation of liquid food.

Have in mind that when solid waste became an issue in 1988, life cycle assessment was the perfect tool that allowed people to analyze problems that are happening to the environment.

That created a perspective in which methodology was improved, and numerous researchers and consultants from the world started to expand and refine the exact method.

The general need to go beyond the inventory created another evolution of LCA methodology.

That resulted in concerns over inaccurate and inappropriate use of life cycle assessment, and that is when State Attorney General in the USA denounces the use of it for marketing purposes and to promote specific products until methods were developed and created.

This particular action went along with the general pressure from environmental organizations to create standard when it comes to life cycle assessment methodology.

Therefore, the implementation of International Standards Organization or ISO developed as the method for determining the life cycle and everything that comes with it.

At the beginning of new millennia, the United Nations Environment Program started working together with Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry with an idea to create the Life Cycle Initiative as a worldwide and international partnership.

Have in mind that three programs had an aim that could put your life cycle into proactive so that you can use tools that will help you find relevant indicators and data. That is when Life Cycle

Management program entered the world with an idea to improve skills of decision-makers as well as awareness by producing suitable information materials, carrying out training programs, and establishing forums for sharing this particular practice.

By implementing the Life Cycle Inventory program, you will be able to improve overall access to high-quality life cycle data that are transparent so that expert groups could use it for their studies.

This particular program improved the quality of global reach and promoted the perspective in which LCA experts could expand their knowledge to help avoid depleting limited resources and creating a methodology, which is widely accepted.