Evaluation of two simplified Life Cycle assessment methods

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Abstract

Goal, Scope and Background

Two methods of simplified LCA were evaluated and compared to the results of a quantitative LCA. These are the Environmentally responsible product assessment matrix developed by Graedel and Allenby and the MECO-method developed in Denmark.

Methods

We used these in a case study and compared the results with the results from a quantitative LCA. The evaluation also included other criteria, such as the field of application and the level of arbitrariness.

Results and Discussion

The MECO-method has some positive qualities compared to the Environmentally responsible product assessment matrix. Examples of this are that it generates information complementary to the quantitative LCA and provides the possibility to consider quantitative information when such is available. Some of the drawbacks with the Environmentally responsible product assessment matrix are that it does not include the whole lifecycle and that it allows some arbitrariness.

Conclusions

Our study shows that a simplified and semi-quantitative LCA (such as the MECO-method) can provide information that is complementary to a quantitative LCA. In this case the method generates more information on toxic substances and other impacts, than the quantitative LCA. We suggest that a simplified LCA can be used both as a pre-study to a quantitative LCA and as a parallel assessment, which is used together with the quantitative LCA in the interpretation.

Recommendations and Outlook

A general problem with qualitative analyses is how to compare different aspects. Life cycle assessments are comparative. The lack of a quantitative dimension hinders the comparison and can thereby hinder the usefulness of the qualitative method. There are different approaches suggested to semiquantify simplified methods in order to make quantitative comparisons possible. We think that the use of fabricated scoring systems should be avoided. If quantitative information is needed, one should consider performing a simplified quantitative LCA instead.