Life Cycle Analysis
Life cycle analysis is an assessment method used by businesses and government regulation authorities to evaluate the environmental impacts of that product and compile an inventory of all the inputs involved and energy used in a product. In simpler words, life cycle analysis is a method used to evaluate impacts of a product or service on the environment. Life cycle of a product can be defined as a chain of consecutive stages which it goes through until a decision is made. It begins with the extraction of input raw materials, followed by manufacturing, quality checking, merchandising and distribution of the product and finally the use and disposal of that particular product by the consumer.
Life cycle analysis is a systematic procedure carried out in four stages. These stages are scoping, compilation, evaluation and interpretation. Scoping is done to define the objective, purpose and boundaries of the life cycle analysis before proceeding to other stages. Compilation is carried out by putting together a list of all the resources to be utilized. Evaluation is carried out by evaluating all the potential environmental impacts caused by the input resources throughout the life cycle of product. Interpretation involves the final decision making by studying the compiled list and the related environmental impacts. In other words, interpretation means to make a well studied and informed decision while considering all the environmental impacts of the product and taking in consideration the evaluated results of the life cycle analysis.
Life cycle analysis helps in; strategic planning, maximum utilization of input materials and energy resources, protection of ecosystem, improvement in process and product design as well as promotion of consumer education. Life cycle analysis is a valuable tool in decision making which is being used increasingly by industries and policy makers alike. Government regulations are in place to make sure the products are environmentally safe throughout their life cycle and industries are participating voluntarily in the environment safety initiatives. Due to the ever growing need of protecting the biosphere, the concept of life cycle analysis has taken central place for criteria development in government guidelines as well as in standards of consumer markets.
For a life cycle analysis to be effective and to function properly, it is necessary that its working boundaries are defined and the objective of the analysis be made clear. Life cycle analysis needs accurate statistics, up-to date researches, expert advice, and solid decision making for it to be as effective as possible.