In a previous article about life cycle assessment (LCA), a methodological framework was proposed and two components of this framework were discussed in more detail: the goal definition and the inventory. In this second article, the other components of the framework are discussed in detail: the classification, the valuation and the improvement analysis. In the classification, resource extractions and emissions associated with the life cycle of a product are translated into contributions to a number of environmental problem types, such as resource depletion, global warming, ozone depletion, acidification, etc. For this, each extraction and emission is multiplied with a so-called classification factor and the multiplication results are aggregated per problem type. Classification factors are proposed for a number of environmental problem types. The valuation includes both a valuation of the different environmental problem types and an assessment of the reliability and validity of the results. For the valuation of the environmental problem types, qualitative or quantitative multicriterion analysis could be applied. Given a standard list of weighting factors the quantitative multicriterion analysis seems preferable, because of its low costs and its simplicity. The main problem, however, is to get a broadly supported standard list. In studies so far little attention is paid to the assessment of the reliability and the validity of the results. To improve this situation methods which could support this assessment are proposed. In the improvement analysis potential options to improve the product(s) studied are identified. Combined with expertise in other fields, such as costs and technological feasibility, the improvement analysis may yield a number of serious options for the redesign of a product. Two complementary techniques for the identification of the potential options are discussed. With these techniques and the active participation of process technologists and designers, LCA might become an analytic tool for eco-design supporting a continuous environmental improvement of products.
- environmental management
- life cycle assessment