Life cycle assessment and gut feeling: Things that easily escape quick judgement
For over 25 years, life cycle assessment has been an important focal point of bifa‘s work. Besides life cycle assessment in the narrower sense, this field also includes variations such as the carbon footprint of products and companies or eco-efficiency analysis.
The topics for which life cycle assessments have been developed at bifa are extremely diverse. Examples include photovoltaic modules, packaging, strategies for municipal collection of recyclable materials, IT hardware, paper and hospital products and innovative process and procedure variants.
What is this bifa text for?
In discussions and conversations with customers or research partners, we repeatedly encounter misconceptions that arise when ecological effects and LCA results are hastily classified. In this text, we discuss some common examples of such „gut feeling“ ecological assessments. Our aim is to explain common misconceptions in a simple way, with clear examples and background information. The text is not an introduction to the methodology of life cycle assessment. Nor does it deal with questions of accounting theory, which are important for us experts but can often be somewhat demanding for non-accountants.
What would you have thought?
Using the examples of plastic bags and rare earths, we show you that the ecological importance of certain issues is often exaggerated if they are discussed intensively in public for a long time. We also point out the limits that the recycling of potentially reusable materials can have from an environmental point of view.
Packaging today has a decidedly poor environmental image. We have devoted a chapter to a realistic assessment of the ecological significance of packaging. We also take an objective look at one of the common beliefs in the packaging sector: that reusable is better than disposable. We show that reusable solutions can sometimes be worse, and why the actual differences to single-use solutions are often not that large.
The environmental impact of goods transport is undeniable, but we also provide you with an assessment of its importance in the context of the life cycle of products.
We examine the suspicion that life cycle assessments can be arbitrary and point out the blind spots in life cycle assessments. We also recommend that once life cycle assessment results have been presented, they should not be regarded as eternal truths.
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The preparation of this bifa text was only possible thanks to the generous support of our sponsoring association vf bifa e. V. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks for their financial support and for the critical discussion that accompanied it. We would also like to thank Dr. Siegfried Kreibe, our deputy managing director and colleague of many years, who contributed a great deal of knowledge and humour to the text despite his retirement.
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