Life cycle analysis: Assessing environmental impact

IRG/WP 94-50034

S L LeVan

Environmental impact assesment is a major issue that faces every nation today. However, consistently and objectively measuring the environmental impact is difficult. During the past two decades, a process called life cycle analysis was developed that tried to make consistent and objective environmental assessments. The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry broadened the concept to not only incude the inventory, as previously considered in life cycle analysis, but also the environmental impact and improvement phases. The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry defines life cycle assessment as "an objectice process to evaluate the environmental burdens associated with a product, process or activity by identifying and quantifying energy and materials used and wastes released to the environment, to assess the impact of those energy and materials uses and releases on the environment, and to evaluate and implement opportunities to affect environmental improvements." Life cycle assessment (LCA) has received both positive and negative feedback on its utility as a process to evaluate environmental impact. This paper provides a brief history and overview of life cycle assessment, illustrating how it has been used and misused, listing the benefits and limitations, and outlining its possible applications to the wood preservation industry. Life cycle assessment provides an opportunity to quantify some environmental impacts of various wood preservation techniques and treatments; however, the process must be appropriately applied to gain the full benefit.


Conference: 94-05-29...06-03, Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia

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