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Caring for future generations

Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) 

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Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) seeks to identify possible improvements to goods and services in the form of lower environmental impacts and reduced use of resources across the whole life of the product, called its whole life cycle. This begins with raw material extraction and conversion, then manufacture and distribution, through to use and consumption. It ends with re-use, recycling of materials, energy recovery and final disposal.

 

The key aim of Life Cycle Thinking is to avoid shifting an environmental effect from one area to another. This means minimising impacts at one stage of the life cycle, or in a geographic region while helping to avoid increases elsewhere; for example, saving energy during the use phase of a product while, at the same time, not increasing the amount of material needed to provide it.

Life Cycle Assessment


Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an effective method for providing information about a company’s environmental performance, improving its understanding of the environmental impacts of its products and identifying cost savings associated with manufacturing and waste disposal methods. However, we should note that, while LCA is a valuable tool and helps us with useful information; it does not make decisions for us.

LCA identifies the material, energy and waste flows of a product over its entire life-cycle so that the environmental impacts can be determined. It can help companies to identify changes to their operations, including product design, which can lead to environmental benefits and cost savings.

Using LCA, it is possible to evaluate the environmental performance of a product from ‘cradle to grave’, allowing the most significant environmental impacts associated with it during its lifetime to be considered, i.e., from extracting the raw materials and fuel from the earth through to the product’s use and, ultimately, disposal.

There are some environmental impacts and issues which LCA is unable to address. Broadly speaking, LCA does not consider things that cannot be measured and subjective impacts; examples are odour and working conditions. In addition, it does not consider economic or social factors.

LCA is of potential interest to most large companies but is not really practical for smaller manufacturers because of its cost and complexity.

More detail about Life Cycle Thinking and Life Cycle Assessment