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



References: [1] Rubik F. Themen, Initiatoren, Methoden, Summaries und Anwen¨ dungen-Wohin bewegen sich Produkt-Okobilanzen? In: UTECH ¨ Berlin ’97: Produktbezogene Okobilanzen V. Berlin: 19–20 February 1997:29–50. [2] Oosterhuis F, Rubik F, Scholl G. Product policy in Europe: new environmental perspectives. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1996:196 and 219. [3] Grotz S, Scholl G. Application of LCA in German industry. The [7] [8] [9] [10] 4 ¨ This issue is worked on by IOW in a current project that deals with the question of "The role of LCA in business decision-making processes and its implications for environmental policy" (http://jrc.es/projects/lca).

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