Life Cycle Assessment

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Abstract This paper discusses the question “Does LCA lead to environmental benefits along the product chain in German industry?” Two of eight case studies conducted and the insights gained are presented. Afterwards, the essential determinants that have an obvious influence on the application of LCA in a negative or positive way are elaborated on. They can be assigned to different categories, such as information, economic aspects, or organisational issues. The paper concludes that the environmental benefits that may occur are strongly dependent on the pattern of application, i.e. the objective in carrying out an LCA study, and the number and interests of the personnel involved along the chain. Finally, the authors give a few recommendations as to a more effective use of this instrument © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Life cycle assessment; Environmental benefits; Packaging

1. Introduction Life cycle assessment (LCA), i.e. the systematic inventory and evaluation of environmental impacts of a product “from the cradle to the grave”, is an emerging tool. On the one hand it is used by governments, e.g. when establishing ecolabelling criteria for certain product groups or when defining mandatory re-use or recycling quotas as done in the context of the German packaging ordinance. On the other hand it is increasingly applied by companies for the identification of environmental weak spots in products and for product development [1–3]1. But has the use of this new and promising tool ever yielded environmental improvements? ¨ The IOW has addressed this question in a project funded by the Ministry of Environment and Transport of Baden-Wurttemberg. The core of our research has ¨ been the description and evaluation of eight case studies

from different industrial branches (Table 1) of which two will be briefly presented below2.

¨ 2. The food example—“Neumarkter Lammsbrau” The “Neumarkter Lammsbrau” is a small brewery that ¨ preponderantly supplies regional markets in Bavaria. It has about 80 employees and an annual beverage output of 8,000,000 liters. Its main product is beer from raw materials that are organically grown. It is the market leader among German suppliers of eco-beer with a market share of 60%. Due to the initiative of its managing director, the environmental profile of activities was first documented in a comprehensive ecobalance starting in 1991 and fin¨ ished in 1992. According to the IOW methodology (see Hallay and Pfriem [7]) an ecobalance is divided into a “factory-”, “process-”, “product chain-” and “locationbalance”. This concept does not completely coincide with that of LCA. It does, however, provide product-

* Corresponding author. Tel: 49-6221-649160; Fax: 49-622127060; E-mail: 1 A comprehensive and very detailed overview of the different applications of LCA is given in Curran [4]. 0959-6526/98/$19.00 © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 9 5 9 - 6 5 2 6 ( 9 8 ) 0 0 0 2 5 - 0

2 The findings of the project have been summarised in Rubik et al. [5], Grotz and Scholl [3,6]. Six of the eight case studies are published in Grotz and Scholl [6].


G.U. Scholl, S. Nisius / Journal of Cleaner Production 6 (1998) 247–252

Table 1 Characterisation of case studies Company AEG Hausgerate GmbH, Nurnberg ¨ ¨ Augsburger Kammgarn Spinnerei AG, Augsburg Junkers, Subsidiary of Bosch GmbH, Wernau a.N. Byk Gulden AG, Singen Donau Tufting GmbH and Co KG, Denkendorf Grammer AG, Amberg Henkel KGaA, Dusseldorf ¨ Neumarkter Lammsbrau, Neumarkt ¨ Industry branch Electronics Textile industry Electronics Chemical industry Textile industry Furniture Chemicals and consumer goods Food Subject of the LCA Vacuum cleaner tube Yarn Transport packaging Packaging Carpets Office chair Laundry detergents (tensides) Beer

Fig. 1.

¨ IOW-ecobalance methodology and its product-related modules.

related environmental data that can be used to assess the environmental...
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