Life Cycle Assessment
From the Beginning to the Current State
Corresponding address: Prof. Dr. Walter K16pffer, C.A.U. GmbH, WG Assessment of Chemicals, Products and Systems,
Daimlerstr. 23, D-63303 Dreieich-Frankfurt, Germany
The basic idea of LCA is that all environmental burdens
connected with a product or service have to be assessed, back to the raw materials and down to waste removal. Therefore,
the term "Life Cycle Assessment" is more precise than the
German "Okobilanz" or the French "&obilan". This basic idea
is undoubtedly true, and LCA is the only environmental
assessment tool which avoids positive ratings for measurements which only consists in the shifting of burdens.
In the years from 1990 to 1993, SETAC and SETAC-Europe
shaped the development of LCA in a series of important
workshops culminating in the "Code of Practice" of 1993. The results of these workshops can be illustrated by the famous
SETAC-triangle. It shows the basic structure which is now
underlying the standardizing activities of ISO: 1. Goal definition and scoping, 2. Inventory analysis, 3. Impact assessment, 4. Improvement assessment.
The structure recently defined by ISO differs from the SETAC structure only in the last element which is called "Interpretation" in the international standard 14040. According to ISO, "Improvement Assessment" is only one of the many activities
which may follow LCA but is not part of the true analysis.
The components of an LCA are described and interpreted in
detail, SETAC vs. ISO. Recent developments and activities initiated by ISO, SPOLD and other organisations complete the review. Keywords: Club of Rome; Code of Practice; environmental
assessment; goal definition and scoping; history, LCA; impact assessment; improvement assessment; interpretation assessment; inventory analysis; Inventory Table; ISOLP; LCA; Life Cycle
Assessment; SETAC; SPOLD
1.1 Early beginnings
Life Cycle Assessment or LCA was invented around 1970
at the Midwest Research Institute in the United States .
ESPR - Environ. Sci. & Pollut. Res. 4 (4) 223 - 228 (1997)
ecnmed nnhli~her~ D-R6R99 l.anckher~, Germ~nv
In Europe, early LCA-like work started soon afterwards at
Battelle Frankfurt , at the Open University in England , at EMPA in Switzerland  and by Sundstr6m in Sweden.
The p r i m a r y t o p i c w a s the c o m p a r a t i v e a n a l y s i s o f packaging under environmental aspects, especially with
regard to resource conservation and energy saving.
1.2 Club of Rome
It was the time of the well k n o w n "Report to the Club of Rome"  and of the first oil crisis. Suddenly it became
obvious that our resources will not last for ever and that
the exponential economic growth might result in an environmental and social disaster. After the second oil crisis when the OPEC cartel was broken and the oil prices went
down, the LCA activities were continued by a few specialists in Europe and in the US, at least at a more moderate level,
but without true growth.
1.3 The basic idea
The sudden revival of LCA in the late 80's is difficult to
understand. N o t only packaging, but also m a n y other
products were analysed "from cradle to grave". The basic
idea of LCA is that all environmental burdens connected
with a product or service have to be assessed, back to the
raw materials and down to waste removal. Therefore, the
term "Life Cycle Assessment" is more precise than the
German "Okobilanz" or the French "&obilan", although
at least in theory the inventory involves the balancing of
all inputs and outputs. In practice, however, balancing can
never be complete, especially not for energy.
This basic idea is undoubtedly true, and LCA is the only
environmental assessment tool which avoids positive ratings
for measurements which only consists in the shifting of
References: Liquids Wich Would be Called an LCA Today. Int. J. LCA
1/2 (1996) 62-65
2/3 (1997), in press
ESPR - Environ
impact assessment. Committee Draft CD 14042, 1997
International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
Study. Tenside 2 (1995) 110-121
Assess. Rev. 12 (1992) 245-269
(Editorial). Int. J. LCA 2/2 (1997) 61
Foundation for Environ. Education. Sandestin, Florida,
February 1-7, 1992
Brussels, October (1994) 11-15
Feasibility and Accuracy. Int. J. LCA 1/3 (1996) 151-158
Please join StudyMode to read the full document