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System boundaries and input data in consequential life cycle inventory analysis

Abstract

Goal, Scope and Background

A consequential life cycle assessment (LCA) is designed to generate information on the consequences of decisions. This paper includes a comprehensive presentation of the consequential approach to system boundaries, allocation and data selection. It is based on a text produced within the SETAC-Europe working group on scenarios in LCA. For most of the methodological problems, we describe ideal methodological solutions as well as simplifications intended to make the method feasible in practice.

Method

We compile, summarize and refine descriptions of consequential methodology elements that have been presented in separate papers, in addition to methodological elements and general conclusions that have not previously been published.

Results and Conclusions

A consequential LCA ideally includes activities within and outside the life cycle that are affected by a change within the life cycle of the product under investigation. In many cases this implies the use of marginal data and that allocation is typically avoided through system expansion. The model resulting from a consequential life cycle inventory (LCI) also includes the alternative use of constrained production factors as well as the marginal supply and demand on affected markets. As a result, the consequential LCI model does not resemble the traditional LCI model, where the main material flows are described from raw material extraction to waste management. Instead, it is a model of causal relationships originating at the decision at hand or the decision-maker that the LCI is intended to inform.

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Correspondence to Tomas Ekvall or Bo P. Weidema.

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Ekvall, T., Weidema, B.P. System boundaries and input data in consequential life cycle inventory analysis. Int. J. LCA 9, 161–171 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02994190

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Keywords

  • Allocation
  • consequential life cycle inventory analysis
  • input data
  • methodology
  • modelling
  • system boundaries