Advantages and precautions when using LCA for ecodesign
LCA is an evaluative and normed method (European norms ISO 14040 and 14044). It is the most commonly used methodology when assessing the environmental impact of a product. Guidance on LCA can be found under the section methodologies used in life cycle assessment.
- Large databases exist for a large number of indicators. The are exploited using specialized commercial or free softwares.
- Databases concerning the main indicators are regularly updated.
- The large variety of different types of environmental impacts can be used to anticipate issues related to a "burden-shifting" from one indicator to another.
- LCA is a quantitative method. It can be subjected to a sensitivity analysis, which can help determine the main processes responsible for a given environmental impact and to compare alternatives.
- The different impact categories in the databases are not updated with the equal regularity. Indicators relating to human toxicity, loss of biodiversity, or pollution are less researched than categories such as green house gas emissions.
- Quantitative data are subject to large uncertainties.
- Functional units can be a source of confusion in LCA. For example, for food packaging, the used unit is generally food delivered to the consumer, but in a number of cases, the effectively consumed Food can be a more accurate measure.
- Sometimes, the comparison of one LCA to another is complex because of changing units and studies giving only relative results.