LCA - Life cycle assessment 

The LCA method has a fixed structure and is performed according to the international standards of the ISO 14040 series. It is one of the most important information tools for environmentally oriented product policy. The LCA method can be defined as the collection and evaluation of inputs, outputs and potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.

1. Definition of objectives and scope (Used to define how much of the product life cycle will be included in the assessment and what the assessment will be used for. It describes the criteria used to compare the systems and the time horizon chosen.)

2. Inventory analysis (This includes a description of the material and energy flows within the product system and in particular its interaction with the environment, the raw materials consumed and the emissions to the environment. It describes all significant processes and ancillary flows of energy and materials.)

3. Impact assessment (The results of the indicators of all impact categories are calculated here, their relative significance of each impact category is assessed by normalisation and, where appropriate, by weighting. The impact assessment usually results in a tabular summary of all impacts.)

4. life cycle interpretation (Includes critical review, sensitivity of data, and presentation of results.)

The main benefits of the life cycle assessment method:

Comparing the environmental impacts of products with respect to their function.

- Evaluating environmental impacts with respect to the whole life cycle of the product.

- Introducing system boundaries to clearly express the scope of the product system.

- Expressing environmental impacts not by calculating emission flows, but by using defined impact categories - converting mass-weighted emission flows into specific values of impact category indicator results.

- Ability to identify the transfer of environmental problems both in space and between different impact categories.

Variants LCA

"Cradle to Grave" is a full life cycle assessment from the extraction of raw materials ("cradle"), through the exploitation phase to the disposal phase ("grave").

"Cradle to Gate' is an assessment of the product's sub-life cycle from raw material extraction ('cradle') to the factory (exit) gate (i.e. before it is transported to the consumer). The use and disposal phases of the product are omitted in this case. Cradle-to-gate assessments are sometimes the basis for environmental product declarations (EPDs) called business-to-business EPDs.

Cradle-to-Cradle or Open Loop Production
"Cradle-to-cradle" is a specific type of cradle-to-gate assessment, where at the end of the product's life (disposal step) there is a recycling process. It is a method used to minimize the environmental impacts of products by using sustainable production, operation and disposal practices. The aim is to incorporate social responsibility into product development.

"Gate-to-gate" is a partial LCA looking at just one process value along the entire production chain. Gate-to-gate modules can also be linked later in their respective production chain to create a complete cradle-to-gate assessment.

It is a specific LCA used to transport fuel and vehicles.