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InLCA Session II D - Decision Making Approaches
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Recovery Policy of Waste Containers: LCA Development and Application

Presenter: Jyh-Shing Yang

Jyh-Shing Yang and Yiin-Bin Reu

Union Chemical Laboratories

For most people in developing countries, the deficiency of environmental related database is the biggest challenge for LCA studies. However, building blocks of the localized baseline data (for material usage, energy consumption and emissions) in LCI combined with computerized models can become very powerful tools for the LCA practitioners. With the LCA projects sponsored by the government, Industrial Technology and Research Institute (ITRI) is setting up those building blocks and is developing a computerized LCI model in Taiwan. Those building blocks are collected from target industries, include public water supply, electricity, refinery, transportation, basic metals, petrochemicals, basic chemicals et al. Data are evaluated and keyed into ITRI's model to be calculated, then store in the database for local practitioners to save their efforts in collecting data. Meanwhile, some difficulties, such as data availability, data format differences were encountered.

The database was used for a LCI case study to calculate the environmental loading of 10 different spent containers. In order to generate indexed numbers for decision making, the inventory data was prioritized by specific grouping as well as by using AHP method. The final strategy for the recovery policy of spent containers was determined by the combination of different social (economical, legal, public administration) decision tools on the "scientific" basis of grouping LCI index.

A New Guide for LCA for Decision-Support

Presenter: G. Huppes
(slides in pdf)

J.B. Guinée and G. Huppes

Leiden University
PO Box 9518
2300 RA Leiden
Phone: +31 71 5277477
FAX: +31 71 5277434

The LCA Guide and Backgrounds document of Heijungs et al. (1992) has been updated to the latest methodological developments. In this updated version all ISO, SETAC, and other developments in the area of goal and scope definition, inventory analysis, impact assessment and interpretation have been taken into account as good as possible.

In the new Guide and Backgrounds the key distinction made is between descriptive (retrospective) analysis and change-oriented (prospective) analysis. Change-oriented analysis is generally considered the analysis to be performed for decision-support. In the change-oriented analysis we distinguish between occasional or short-term; structural or medium-term; and strategic or long-term analysis.

Three levels of sophistication are distinguished: simplified LCA (not fully complying with ISO standards for time and money constraints); detailed LCA, (complying with ISO standards using baseline choices for all methodological issues); and extended LCA (detailed LCA with additional sensitivity analyses, partial uncertainty analyses, elaboration of new impact categories or calculations of new characterisation, etc.). For these three levels of sophistication, different sets of guidelines have been developed, as far as relevant. Furthermore, these levels have been related to a number of decision situations for which basic procedural guidelines have been developed.

In the Guide, we focus on change-oriented analysis, for structural and strategic applications. This implies that other types of LCA methods are not elaborated. These may need further attention, also to clarify the applicability and limitations of the LCA methods as are specified in the Guide. Where relevant and possible, suggestions are given when to use other types of LCA methods and when to apply other tools for environmental analysis - not yet worked out in this Guide - which might add information relevant for the decision at hand. These include substance flow analysis, dynamic analysis and market analysis.

Accounting for Engineering Trade-Offs in Decision-making

Presenter: Kenneth R. Stone

Kenneth R. Stone

National Risk Management Research Laboratory
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency X
Cincinnati OH 45268
Phone: 513/569-7474
Phone: +31 71 5277477

From experience in developing and testing pollution prevention tools ranging from the opportunity assessment methodology to life cycle assessment and impact assessment, the Systems Analysis Branch (SAB) of the EPA's National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL) has acquired a record of lessons learned in applying these approaches to real world applications. Many of these lessons illustrate several limitations exhibited by each of these P2 approaches. For example, the pollution prevention opportunity assessment (PPOA), perhaps the most intuitive and simplest P2 tool available, is very good at identifying ways to improve operating practices, but the SAB has found several deficiencies in the PPOA's ability to support the procurement of new equipment, products and substitute materials. Life cycle assessment, by contrast, attempts to resolve those deficiencies by providing a far more comprehensive picture than PPOA, but it is very complex and more expensive by at least an order of magnitude than the PPOA. Further, while each methodological approach provides information on environmental burdens, neither provides any insights on the inevitable trade-offs that occur in performance and cost resulting from a decision. The failure to account for these trade-offs early in the assessment may result in a decision that inadvertently creates negative impacts in performance, cost and environment.


NRMRL's Engineering Trade-Offs (ETO) program is developing a methodological approach to account for the wide variety of trade-offs that occur whenever a decision is made, from the very intimate level of personal preference to the wider ranging level of institutional policy. This approach involves integrating economic impacts (cost and performance) with environmental impacts of a decision, including an assessment of the impacts of actually implementing the decision and the social reaction as a result of the decision. It is being designed for decision-makers, rather than analysts.

Conceptual Basis for ETO

ETO focuses on the four areas considered to be critical in making a fully informed decision:

performance, environment, economics and acceptance. These areas are considered critical because a failure in any one area ultimately defeats the goal of the change. For example, if a change of technology is implemented that has demonstrated lower costs, better performance and lower environmental effect, all those benefits can yet be negated in practice if those responsible for implementation do not understand it or resist using it. Therefore, ETO seeks to develop a methodological approach to capture the potential for success and the risk of failure in each of these areas to fully inform the decision-maker and guide the successful implementation of source reduction activities and technologies.

Economic and Environmental Trade-offs

At the minimum, each alternative has to fulfill the necessary function, be affordable to acquire, use and maintain, and be compliant with existing regulations. Environment is related to economics with a social understanding to ensure that the decision-maker will also have knowledge of the trade-offs that occur as the result of making a decision.


When a decision maker chooses to select one system over another, it is important to account for the impacts of the implementation itself, particularly if one system is in place and has to be retired. For example, a hospital may choose to replace medical equipment containing mercury with mercury-free electronic components and devices. What does it then do with the equipment being retired? What impacts flow from the way it is retired - retrofit, disposal, sell-off to other users, etc.? In some instances, these decisions can lead to significant environmental risk.


It is important to consider the potential impact of a decision in terms of its acceptance, or its rejection via human error and will. A technically correct P2 decision can be quickly defeated by these two factors. ETO recognizes that P2 decisions have to be carried out by human beings. While human beings sometimes make mistakes, it is also true that some situations are prone to promoting mistakes. Such situations can easily defeat a P2 decision. It is also true that human beings have individual will, and if the persons responsible with implementing a decision do not fully accept, there are a number of ways they can defeat it.


While ETO is not proposed as a replacement for life cycle tools and methodologies, it is being developed as a useful methodology for capturing trade-offs in decision-making with the intention of improving the environmental character of decisions without burdening the processing with expensive analytical methods. It is directed to those individuals having to make public and corporate decisions who may not possess the staff or resources for more sophisticated life cycle-based analyses. It is being developed fundamentally as a method to compare two or more products, processes or activities, as opposed to design approaches to improve an existing activity. Currently, NRMRL has developed the concept for ETO and is in the midst of developing a practical methodology.

By-Product Synergy--The Ideal Product Disposition

Presenter: Andrew Mangan

Andrew Mangan

Applied Sustainability LLC
4425 S. Mopac Exp., Building III, Suite 501
Austin, TX 78735
Phone: 512-892-4413
FAX: 512-892-8830

An important element of LCA is including "disposition" in a product's economic and environmental assessment. Through cross-industry collaboration, By-Product Synergy (BPS) expands on this concept by striving for the disposition of all material streams to be product inputs.

In BPS projects, diverse companies within a region collaborate to uncover synergies between each other's by-products and resource needs. The concept of turning waste streams into product is not new, yet has often been difficult to realize. BPS overcomes many barriers to identifying and implementing synergies through three key project elements:

  1. Diversity--BPS participants represent a wide variety of industries, broadening the markets in which participants find synergies and business opportunities.
  2. Communication--The BPS forum encourages idea sharing and stimulates creative thinking to look beyond company fence-lines for opportunities.
  3. Partnerships--BPS participants connect with technical consultants, regulatory agencies, research organizations, and funding sources to overcome barriers to implementing the synergies.

BPS projects begin by educating businesses on the benefits of BPS and recruiting participants. Next, participants' material flows are catalogued in a confidential database that is analyzed for potential synergies. Simultaneously, a series of facilitated working meetings allow participants to brainstorm on potential synergies. Participants then implement the synergies that provide economic potential.

Synergies can bring the following benefits to project participants:

Involvement in BPS also provides companies with intangible benefits. Re-thinking of "waste" as potential products opens the door to new business opportunities. The Global BPS Network provides connections to companies worldwide. BPS also provides companies with an action-plan for involving all levels of an organization in implementing sustainable development.


Utility Based Framework for Material and Process Selection in the Integrated Chain Management of Polymers

Presenter: Gary Stevens
(slides in pdf)

Warren Mellor(1,2), Elizabeth Williams(1,2), Gary Stevens(1), Adisa Azapagic(2) and Roland Clift(2)

Polymer Research Centre(1) and
School of Engineering in the Environment(2)
University of Surrey
Guildford, Surrey. GU2 5XH
Phone: 00 44 (0)1483-259599
FAX: 00 44 (0)1483 259555

Life cycle assessment thinking can play an important role in reducing the growing volumes of plastic waste. By evaluating the environmental effects of a product or process, from cradle to grave, opportunities for improving its environmental performance can be identified. Life-cycle product design (LCPD) methods can implement these improvements through design changes which increase a product's ability for re-use and recycling.

This paper sets out a methodology which is based on LCPD, but goes further in its consideration of an integrated chain management approach, for material selection and product design. It will enable not only single life cycles but also cascades of product use to be identified and modelled explicitly in relation to technical, economic and environmental requirements and impacts.

The methodology describes materials in terms of their utilities. A utility can be any value used to represent a mass flow, such as material property, geographical location or economic value. The use of utilities enables the usefulness of a material to be measured by comparison with predefined criteria. They also allow the properties of a material to be monitored as they pass through production, use and re-use. All operations will change material properties in a pre-defined way; these can be modelled so that the changes due to a sequence of operations and processes can be calculated. This enables the opportunities for re-use and recycling of materials to be evaluated.

Environmental burdens and economic costs are calculated in conjunction with the utility changes, making this approach useful for assessing the feasibility of an operation where the necessary performance criteria are met whilst also satisfying environmental and economic constraints. This framework is to serve as a basis on which to build a decision support tool that will help polymer product designers and manufacturers make choices among different polymers and processes. Several industrial case studies, also discussed in this paper, are being considered to test and evaluate the methodology.


Better D&D Decision-Making Through Life Cycle Analysis

Presenter: Katherine Yuracko

Katherine L. Yuracko, Mike Morris and Terry L. Hatmaker

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
1060 Commerce Park Dr.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37830-6480
Phone: 423-241-2290
FAX: 423-574-1778

Given the enormous scope of the decontamination and decommissioning (D&D) work that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) faces, there is a tremendous opportunity to save money and avoid further insults to the environment and to human health by applying the principles of life cycle analysis (LCA). The Center for Life Cycle Analysis at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has developed an LCA system that is especially valuable in D&D decision-making because it provides a systematic, comprehensive, cost-effective decision-aiding process and a complementary suite of tools that has been proven to help the DOE make better decisions.

The ORNL approach to LCA differs from other approaches by taking into consideration all the factors important to stakeholders--life cycle cost, health and safety, the environment, programmatic impacts, and other factors. Consideration of these impacts need not be extensive or excessively burdensome; it should be commensurate with the potential benefits. However, the fundamental process of considering each of the alternatives on each of the relevant attributes will ensure that all factors important to the decision have been considered, reducing the likelihood of unintended consequences.

Only by considering all impacts of decisions over the total life-cycle, can managers be sure that they are determining the wisest choice for the DOE. We have found that when the traditional approach to making decisions is used, the Department fails to realize potential cost savings, environmental benefits, and health and safety improvements. By considering all costs and benefits, regardless of which organization pays those costs or realizes those benefits, LCA reveals superior decisions for the Department. The ORNL LCA approach has been successfully applied at a number of DOE sites to help make better decisions. A specific demonstration of this approach for D&D at the DOE Hanford site will be presented.

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