Evaluation of two simplified Life Cycle assessment methods


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.


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.


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.


  1. Almemark M, Granath J, Setterwall C (1999): El för fordon. Komparativ livscykelanalys for el- och förbränningsmotor-drivna fordon under svenska förhållanden. Elforsk rapport 99:30. Stockholm. Sweden (In Swedish)

  2. Christiansen K (1997): Simplifying LCA: Just a Cut? Final report from the SETAC-EUROPE LCA Screening and Streamlining Working Group (Brussels: SETAC-Europe)

    Google Scholar 

  3. Ekvall T, Finnveden G (2001): Allocation in ISO 14041-A Critical Review. J Cleaner Prod 9 197–208

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. European Commission (1967): Directive 67/548 EEG

  5. Finnveden G (2000): On the limitations of life cycle assessment and environmental systems analysis tools in general. Int J LCA 5 (4) 229–238

    Google Scholar 

  6. Finnveden G (1996): Solid waste treatment within the framework of life-cycle assessment. Metals in municipal solid waste landfills. Int J LCA 1 (2) 74–78

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Graedel TE (1996): Weighted Matrices as Product Life Cycle Assessment Tools. Int J LCA 1 (2) 85–89

    Google Scholar 

  8. Graedel TE (1997): Designing the Ideal Green Product: LCA/SLCA in Reverse. Int J LCA 2 (1) 25–31

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Graedel TE (1998): Streamlined Life-Cycle Assessment. New Jersey. Prentice Hall Inc

    Google Scholar 

  10. Graedel TE, Allenby B R (1995): Industrial Ecology. New Jersey. Prentice Hall

    Google Scholar 

  11. Graedel TE, Allenby B R (1998): Industrial Ecology and the Automobile. New Jersey. Prentice-Hall Inc

    Google Scholar 

  12. Graedel TE, Nakaniwa C (2002): Life Cycle and Matrix Analyses for Re-refined Oil in Japan. Int J LCA 7 (2) 95–102

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Graedel TE, Saxton E (2002): Improving the Overall Environmental Performance of Existing Telecommunications Facilities. Int J LCA 7 (4) 219–224

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Guinée JB, Gorrée M, Heijungs R, Huppes G, Klejn R, Koning A de, Oers L van, Wegener Sleeswijk A, Suh S, Udo de Haes HA, Brujin H de, Duin R van and Huijbrects MA J (2001): Life cycle assessment, An operational guide to the ISO standards, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic Publishers

    Google Scholar 

  15. Hochschorner E, Finnveden G, Johansson J (2002): Utvärdering av två förenklade metoder för livscykelanalyser. FOI Rapport 0369. Stockholm. Sweden (In Swedish)

  16. Hochschorner E, Finnveden G (2003): Use of Life cycle assessment methodology in the acquisition process of defence materiel. FOI report 0786. Stockholm. Sweden

  17. Hunt RG, Boguski TK, Weitz K, Sharma A (1998): Case Studies Examining LCA Streamlining Techniques. Int J LCA 3 (1) 36–42

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Johansson J, Finnveden G, Moberg Å (2001): Metoder för forenklade, kvalitativa livscykelanalyser av produkter och materiel. FOI Rapport 0032. Stockholm. Sweden (In Swedish)

  19. Lindeijer E, Müller-Wenk R, Steen B (2002): Impact assessment of resources and land use. In: Towards Best Practice in Life Cycle Impact Assessment-Report of the second SETACV-Europe working group on Life Cycle Impact Assessment. Udo de Haes HA, Jolliet O, Finnveden G, Goedkoop M, Hauschild M, Hertwich E, Hofstetter P, Klöpffer W, Krewitt W, Lindeijer E, Müller-Wenk R, Olsen S I, Pennington DW, Potting J, Steen B (eds). Pensacola, Florida

  20. Lindfors L-G, Christiansen K, Hoffman L, Virtanen Y, Juntilla V, Hanssen O-J, Rönning A, Ekvall T, Finnveden G (1995): Nordic Guidelines on Life-Cycle Assessment. Copenhagen: Nordic Council of Ministers

    Google Scholar 

  21. Miljøstyrelsen (2000a): Bekendgørelse om listen over farlige stoffer. Miljø-og Energiministeriet. Denmark (In Danish)

  22. Miljøstyrelsen (2000b): Effektlisten 2000. Miljø-og Energiministeriet. Denmark (In Danish)

  23. Miljøstyrelsen (2000c): Listen over uønskede stoffer, En signalliste over kemikalier, hvor brugen på laengere sigt bør reduceres eller stoppes. Miljø-og Energiministeriet. Denmark (In Danish)

  24. Pommer K, Bech P, Wenzel H, Caspersen N, Olsen S I (2001): Håndbog i miljøvurdering af produkter-En enkel metode.

  25. Miljønyt Nr. 58 2001. Miljøstyrelsen, Miljø-og Energiministeriet (In Danish)

  26. Todd JA, Curran MA (1999): Streamlined Life-Cycle Assessment: A Final Report from the SETAC North America Streamlined LCA Workgroup: Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) and SETAC Foundation for Environmental Education

  27. Uppenberg S, Brandel M, Lindfors L-G, Marcus H-O, Wachtmeister A, Zetterbeg L (1999): Miljøfaktahandbok för trädbränslen. Resursförbrukning och emissioner från hela livscykeln. Stockholm. Sweden. IVL-Svenska Miljöinstitutet (In Swedish)

  28. Uppenberg S, Brandel M, Lindfors L-G, Marcus H-O, Wachtmeister A, Zetterberg L (1999): Miljöfaktabok för bränslen, Stockholm. Sweden. IVL (In Swedish)

  29. Wenzel H (1998): Application dependency of LCA methodology: Key variables and their mode of influencing the method. Int J LCA 3 (5) 281–288

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Wenzel H, Hauschild M, Alting L (1997): Environmental Assessment of Products, Vol. 1: Methodology, Tools and Case Studies in Product Development. Chapman & Hall, London

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Elisabeth Hochschorner or Göran Finnveden.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hochschorner, E., Finnveden, G. Evaluation of two simplified Life Cycle assessment methods. Int J LCA 8, 119 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02978456

Download citation


  • Electric cars
  • ERPA-matrix (ERPA: Environmentally Responsible Product Assessment)
  • life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • MECO-method (MECO: Materials, Energy, Chemicals and Others)
  • semiquantitative LCA
  • simplified LCA
  • streamlined LCA