ReCiPe2016: a harmonised life cycle impact assessment method at midpoint and endpoint level

  • Mark A. J. Huijbregts
  • Zoran J. N. Steinmann
  • Pieter M. F. Elshout
  • Gea Stam
  • Francesca Verones
  • Marisa Vieira
  • Michiel Zijp
  • Anne Hollander
  • Rosalie van Zelm



Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) translates emissions and resource extractions into a limited number of environmental impact scores by means of so-called characterisation factors. There are two mainstream ways to derive characterisation factors, i.e. at midpoint level and at endpoint level. To further progress LCIA method development, we updated the ReCiPe2008 method to its version of 2016. This paper provides an overview of the key elements of the ReCiPe2016 method.


We implemented human health, ecosystem quality and resource scarcity as three areas of protection. Endpoint characterisation factors, directly related to the areas of protection, were derived from midpoint characterisation factors with a constant mid-to-endpoint factor per impact category. We included 17 midpoint impact categories.

Results and discussion

The update of ReCiPe provides characterisation factors that are representative for the global scale instead of the European scale, while maintaining the possibility for a number of impact categories to implement characterisation factors at a country and continental scale. We also expanded the number of environmental interventions and added impacts of water use on human health, impacts of water use and climate change on freshwater ecosystems and impacts of water use and tropospheric ozone formation on terrestrial ecosystems as novel damage pathways. Although significant effort has been put into the update of ReCiPe, there is still major improvement potential in the way impact pathways are modelled. Further improvements relate to a regionalisation of more impact categories, moving from local to global species extinction and adding more impact pathways.


Life cycle impact assessment is a fast evolving field of research. ReCiPe2016 provides a state-of-the-art method to convert life cycle inventories to a limited number of life cycle impact scores on midpoint and endpoint level.


Characterisation factors Ecosystem quality Endpoint indicator Human health Midpoint indicator Resource scarcity 



The research was supported by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment RIVM-project S/607020, Measurably Sustainable within the spearhead Healthy and Sustainable Living Environment, commissioned by the Director-General of RIVM and run under the auspices of RIVM’s Science Advisory Board.

Supplementary material

11367_2016_1246_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (106 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 105 kb)
11367_2016_1246_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (6 mb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 6155 kb)


  1. Apte JS, Marshall JD, Cohen AJ, Brauer M (2015) Addressing global mortality from ambient PM2.5. Environ Sci Technol 49:8057–8066CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Azevedo LB, Van Zelm R, Hendriks AJ, Bobbink R, Huijbregts MAJ (2013a) Global assessment of the effects of terrestrial acidification on plant species richness. Environ Pollut 174:10–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Azevedo LB, Henderson AD, van Zelm R, Jolliet O, Huijbregts MAJ (2013b) Assessing the importance of spatial variability versus model choices in life cycle impact assessment: the case of freshwater eutrophication in Europe. Environ Sci Technol 47:13565–13570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Azevedo LB, van Zelm R, Elshout PMF, Hendriks AJ, Leuven RSEW, Struijs J, de Zwart D, Huijbregts MAJ (2013c) Species richness–phosphorus relationships for lakes and streams worldwide. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 22:1304–1314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bouwman AF, Beusen AHW, Billen G (2009) Human alteration of the global nitrogen and phosphorus soil balances for the period 1970–2050. Global Biogeochem Cy 23:GB0A04. doi: 10.1029/2009GB003576 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brauer M, Freedman G, Frostad J, van Donkelaar A, Martin RV, Dentener F, Dingenen RV, Estep K, Amini H, Apte JS, Balakrishnan K (2016) Ambient air pollution exposure estimation for the global burden of disease 2013. Environ Sci Technol 50:79–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chaudhary A, Verones F, De Baan L, Hellweg S (2015) Quantifying land use impacts on biodiversity: combining species-area models and vulnerability indicators. Environ Sci Technol 49:9987–9995CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cucurachi S, Heijungs R (2014) Characterisation factors for life cycle impact assessment of sound emissions. Sci Total Environ 468-469:280–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Curran M, Hellweg S, Beck J (2014) Is there any empirical support for biodiversity offset policy? Ecol Appl 24:617–632CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. De Baan L, Alkemade R, Köllner T (2013) Land use impacts on biodiversity in LCA: a global approach. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1216–1230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. De Schryver AM, Van Zelm R, Humbert S, Pfister S, McKone TE, Huijbregts MAJ (2011) Value choices in life cycle impact assessment of stressors causing human health damage. J Indus Ecol 15:796–815CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. De Schryver AM, Brakkee KW, Goedkoop M, Huijbregts MAJ (2009) Characterization factors for global warming in life cycle assessment based on damages to humans and ecosystems. Environ Sci Technol 43:1689–1695CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Döll P, Siebert S (2002) Global modelling of irrigation water requirements. Water Resour Res 38:1037CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dong Y, Rosenbaum RK, Hauschild MZ (2016) Assessment of metal toxicity in marine ecosystems: comparative toxicity potentials for nine cationic metals in coastal seawater. Environ Sci Technol 50:269–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. EC (2013) Commission recommendation of 9 April 2013 on the use of common methods to measure and communicate the life cycle environmental performance of products and organisations. 56:1–210Google Scholar
  16. Elshout PMF, Van Zelm R, Karuppiah R, Laurenzi IJ, Huijbregts MAJ (2014) A spatially explicit data-driven approach to assess the effect of agricultural land occupation on species groups. Int J Life Cycle Assess 19:758–769CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fan J, Wei W, Bai Z, Fan C, Li S, Liu Q, Yang K (2015) A systematic review and meta-analysis of dengue risk with temperature change. Int J Environ Res Public Health 12:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fantke P, Jolliet O (2015) Life cycle human health impacts of 875 pesticides. Int J Life Cycle Assess 21:722–733CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frischknecht R, Braunschweig A, Hofstetter P, Suter P (2000) Human health damages due to ionising radiation in life cycle impact assessment. Environmental Impact Asses Rev 20:159–189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goedkoop M, Heijungs R, Huijbregts MAJ, De Schryver A, Struijs J, van Zelm R (2009) ReCiPe 2008: a life cycle impact assessment method which comprises harmonised category indicators at the midpoint and endpoint levels. First edition. Report i: characterization. The Netherlands: Ruimte en Milieu, Ministerie van Volkshuisvesting, Ruimtelijke Ordening en MilieubeheerGoogle Scholar
  21. Hanafiah MM, Xenopoulos MA, Pfister S, Leuven RS, Huijbregts MAJ (2011) Characterization factors for water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions based on freshwater fish species extinction. Environ Sci Technol 45:5572–5278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hauschild MZ, Goedkoop M, Guinee J, Heijungs R, Huijbregts M, Jolliet O, Margni M, De Schryver A, Humbert S, Laurent A, Sala S, Pant R (2013) Identifying best existing practice for characterization modeling in life cycle impact assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:683–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hauschild MZ, Huijbregts MAJ (2015) Introducing life cycle impact assessment. In: Hauschild M, Huijbregt M (eds) Life cycle impact assessment. Springer, Dordrecht Chapter 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hayashi K, Nakagawa A, Itsubo N, Inaba A (2006) Expanded damage function of stratospheric ozone depletion to cover major endpoints regarding life cycle impact assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11:150–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Helmes RJK, Huijbregts MAJ, Henderson AD, Jolliet O (2012) Spatially explicit fate factors of phosphorous emissions to freshwater at the global scale. Int J Life Cycle Assess 17:646–654CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hodas N, Loh M, Shin H-M, Li D, Bennett D, McKone TE, Jolliet O, Weschler CJ, Jantunen M, Lioy P, Fantke P (2016) Indoor inhalation intake fractions of fine particulate matter: review of influencing factors. Indoor Air 26:836–856CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hoekstra AY, Mekonnen MM (2012) The water footprint of humanity. PNAS 109:3232–3237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Huijbregts MAJ, Rombouts LJA, Ragas AMJ, Van de Meent D (2005) Human-toxicological effect and damage factors of carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic chemicals for life cycle impact assessment. Integr Environ Assess Manag 1:181–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Huijbregts MAJ, Steinmann ZJN, Elshout PMF, Stam G, Verones F, Vieira MDM, Van Zelm R, (2016) ReCiPe2016. A harmonized life cycle impact assessment method at midpoint and endpoint level. Report I: characterization. RIVM Report 2016–0104. National Institute for Human Health and the Environment, BilthovenGoogle Scholar
  30. IPCC (2013) Climate change 2013: the physical science basis. In: Stocker TF, Qin D, Plattner GK, Tignor M, Allen SK, Boschung J, Nauels A, Xia Y, Bex V, Midgley PM (eds) Contribution of working group I to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 1535. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781107415324 Google Scholar
  31. Joos F, Roth R, Fuglestvedt JS, Peters GP, Enting IG, Von Bloh W, Brovkin V, Burke EJ, Eby M, Edwards NR, Friedrich T, Frölicher TL, Halloran PR, Holden PB, Jones C, Kleinen T, Mackenzie FT, Matsumoto K, Meinshausen M, Plattner G-K, Reisinger A, Segschneider J, Shaffer G, Steinacher M, Strassmann K, Tanaka K, Timmermann A, Weaver AJ (2013) Carbon dioxide and climate impulse response functions for the computation of greenhouse gas metrics: a multi-model analysis. Atmos Chem Phys 13:2793–2825CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jungbluth N, Frischknecht R (2010) Cumulative energy demand. In: Hischier R, Weidema B (eds) Implementation of life cycle impact assessment methods. Ecoinvent centre, St Gallen, pp. 33–40Google Scholar
  33. Kounina A, Margni M, Shaked S, Bulle C, Jolliet O (2014) Spatial analysis of toxic emissions in LCA: a sub-continental nested USEtox model with freshwater archetypes. Environ Int 69:67–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pfister S, Koehler A, Hellweg S (2009) Assessing the environmental impacts of freshwater consumption in LCA. Environ Sci Technol 43:4098–4104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pini M, Salieri B, Ferrari AM, Nowack B, Hischier R (2016) Human health characterization factors of nano-TiO2 for indoor and outdoor environments. Int J Life Cycle Assess 21:1452–1462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Posthuma L, De Zwart D (2006) Fish community responses in the field show the empirical meaning of the potentially affected fraction of species as relative measure of mixture risk. Environ Toxicol Chem 25:1094–1105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rosenbaum RK, Bachmann TM, Gold LS, Huijbregts MAJ, Jolliet O, Juraske R, Koehler A, Larsen HF, MacLeod M, Margni M, McKone TE, Payet J, Schuhmacher M, Van de Meent D, Hauschild MZ (2008) USEtox-the UNEP-SETAC toxicity model: recommended characterisation factors for human toxicity and freshwater ecotoxicity in life cycle impact assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13:532–546CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rosenbaum R, Meijer A, Demou E, Hellweg S, Jolliet O, Lam N, Margni M, McKone TEM (2015) Indoor air paper. Indoor air pollutant exposure for life cycle assessment: regional health impact factors for households. Environ Sci Technol 21:12823–12831CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Roy P-O, Azevedo LB, Margni M, Van Zelm R, Deschênes L, Huijbregts MAJ (2014) Characterization factors for terrestrial acidification at the global scale: a systematic analysis of spatial variability and uncertainty. Sci Total Environ 500:270–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Roy PO, Huijbregts M, Deschenes L, Margni M (2012a) Spatially-differentiated atmospheric source-receptor relationships for nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides and ammonia emissions at the global scale for life cycle impact assessment. Atmos Environ 62:74–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Roy PO, Deschenes L, Margni M (2012b) Life cycle impact assessment of terrestrial acidification: modeling spatially explicit soil sensitivity at the global scale. Environ Sci Technol 46:8270–8278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Urban MC (2015) Accelerating extinction risk from climate change. Science 348:571–573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Van Goethem T, Azevedo LB, Van Zelm R, Hayes RM, Ashmore MR, Huijbregts MAJ (2013a) Plant species sensitivity distributions for ozone exposure. Environ Pollut 178:1–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Van Goethem T, Preiss P, Azevedo LB, Friedrich R, Huijbregts MAJ, Van Zelm R (2013b) European characterization factors for damage to natural vegetation by ozone in life cycle impact assessment. Atmos Environ 77:318–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Van Zelm R, Huijbregts MAJ, Van de Meent D (2009) USES-LCA 2.0: a global nested multi-media fate, exposure and effects model. Int J Life Cycle Assess 14(30):282–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Van Zelm R, Stam G, Huijbregts MAJ, Van de Meent D (2013) Making fate and exposure models for freshwater ecotoxicity in life cycle assessment suitable for organic acids and bases. Chemosphere 90:312–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Van Zelm R, Preiss P, Van Goethem T, Van Dingenen R, Huijbregts MAJ (2016) Regionalized life cycle impact assessment of air pollution on the global scale: damage to human health and vegetation. Atmos Environ 134:129–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Verones F, Huijbregts MAJ, Chaudhary A, de Baan L, Koellner T, Hellweg S (2015) Harmonizing the assessment of biodiversity effects from land and water use within LCA. Environ Sci Technol 49:3584–3592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Vieira MDM, Ponsioen TC, Goedkoop M, Huijbregts MAJ (2016a) Surplus ore potential as a scarcity indicator for resource extraction. J Indus Ecol. doi: 10.1111/jiec.12444 Google Scholar
  50. Vieira MDM, Ponsioen TC, Goedkoop M, Huijbregts MAJ (2016b) Surplus cost potential as a life cycle impact indicator for metal extraction. Resources 5:1–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Vieira MDM, Ponsioen T, Goedkoop M, Huijbregts MAJ (2016c) Fossil resource scarcity. In: Huijbregts MAJ, Steinmann ZJN, Elshout PMF, Stam G, Verones F, Vieira MDM, Van Zelm R (eds) ReCiPe2016. A harmonized life cycle impact assessment method at midpoint and endpoint level. Report I: characterization. RIVM Report 2016-0104. National Institute for Human Health and the Environment, Bilthoven. Chapter 13Google Scholar
  52. WMO (2011) Scientific assessment of ozone depletion: 2010, Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project-report no.52. World Meteorological Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  53. Woods JS, Veltman K, Huijbregts MAJ, Verones F, Hertwich EG (2016) Towards a meaningful assessment of marine ecological impacts in life cycle assessment (LCA). Environ Int 89-90:48–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark A. J. Huijbregts
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zoran J. N. Steinmann
    • 1
  • Pieter M. F. Elshout
    • 1
  • Gea Stam
    • 1
    • 3
  • Francesca Verones
    • 4
  • Marisa Vieira
    • 1
    • 5
  • Michiel Zijp
    • 3
  • Anne Hollander
    • 3
  • Rosalie van Zelm
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science, Institute for Water and Wetland Research, Faculty of ScienceRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL)The HagueThe Netherlands
  3. 3.National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, Centre of Sustainability, Environment and Health (DMG)BilthovenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Industrial Ecology Programme, Department for Energy and Process EngineeringNorwegian University and Science (NTNU)TrondheimNorway
  5. 5.PRé ConsultantsAmersfoortThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations