The LCA – Life Cycle Assessment – study has been carried out with the aim of conducting an assessment of the life cycle of 34 BMS MN foliar products from the Ecomethod line.
More specifically, the analysis was carried out by applying LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) methodology, in accordance with the UNI EN ISO 14040 standard: 2006 (Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Principles and reference framework) and UNI EN ISO 14044: 2018 (Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Requirements and guidelines).
The study was conducted by: 2A Ecogestioni SRL (Registered office: via Crocifisso, 65 – 24123 – Bergamo / Operational office: via Mazzini, 15 – 25123 – Brescia).
It is subject to Critical Review by the RINA Certification Body which, with certificate no. LCA-005 of 31/01/20, confirmed its results.
Life Cycle Assessment provides an assessment of the potential environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of the product or process, which can be used in various forms and as a communication tool intended for different stakeholders.
Life Cycle Assessment is an objective procedure for assessing the energy and environmental loads related to a process or activity, carried out by identifying the energy and materials used and the waste released into the environment. The assessment covers the entire life cycle of the process or activity, including extraction and processing of raw materials, manufacturing, transport, distribution, use, reuse, recycling and final disposal”.
Important aspects to be highlighted are:
- the objectivity of the procedure, thus making it essential that precise steps (phases) are followed and that the assessment should result from the analysis of scientifically verifiable and comparable data;
- the subject of the assessment is the energy and environmental loads attributable to the current state of a process or activity leading to the production of a product broadly speaking or a service;
- the entire life cycle of the process or activity is taken into account, without omitting any phase directly attributable to the subject (functional unit) of the study. Life cycle refers to the consecutive and connected stages of the production system, from the purchase of raw material, through the production cycle, to use and final disposal.
The LCA methodology is applied according to UNI EN ISO 14040: 2006 and UNI EN ISO 14044: 2018, which define the phases of the analysis:
- Goal Definition and Scoping;
- Life Cycle Inventory Analysis (LCI);
- Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA);
- Life Cycle Interpretation.
Definition of the objectives, scope and limits of the system
The purpose of the study, scope, functional units, system limits, data requirements, assumptions and limitations are defined. During the definition phase of the study, so that it is swift and appropriate, the following are progressively evaluated:
- the objectives of the LCA (definition of the problem to be analysed, i.e. whether to compare two products or to improve existing ones or to design new ones);
- the level of detail (degree of accuracy of the analysis);
- the subject of the study (specify the type of product, the quantity, what are the time limits for production, what are the relevant functions. In some cases, packaging materials and consumer behaviour have to be taken into account).
The objective of an LCA must unambiguously state what the intended application is, the reasons for conducting the study and the intended audience, i.e. to whom the results of the study are intended to be communicated.
The scope of an LCA study must clearly specify the functions of the system under study. The scope should be sufficiently well defined to ensure that the extent, depth and detail of the study are compatible with the stated objective and sufficient to achieve this. The LCA is an iterative technique. Consequently, the scope of the study may need to be modified due to additional information collected during the study [ISO 14040: 2006, Para. 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206].
A functional unit is a measurement of the functional output flow performance of the product system.
The main purpose of the functional unit is to provide a reference to which incoming and outgoing flows can be linked. This reference is necessary to enable comparability of LCA results, which could be particularly critical when assessing different systems, because it must be ensured that comparisons are made on a common basis.
A system can have a great many possible functions, and the function chosen for study depends on the objective and scope of application. The corresponding functional unit must be defined and measurable [ISO 14040: 2006, Para. 5.2.2].
The system limits determine the process units which must be included in the LCA. Numerous factors determine the system limits, including the intended applications of the study, the assumptions made, the exclusion criteria, the constraints produced by the data and costs, and the target audience. The criteria used in defining the system limits impose the degree of confidence to ensure that the results of the study have not been compromised and the objective of a given study is achieved (ISO 14040: 2006, Para. 5.2.3). Any decision to eliminate life cycle phases, processes or input/output flows must be clearly stated and justified
Inventory analysis (LCI)
This consists of identifying and quantifying the incoming and outgoing flows of the system under analysis throughout its life. The consumption of resources (raw materials, water, recycled products), energy (heat and electricity) and emissions into the air, water and soil will therefore be identified and quantified, thus creating a true and correct environmental balance sheet.
This phase consists of four basic parts:
- process flow-chart: a graphical and qualitative representation of all relevant phases of the processes involved in the life cycle of the analysed system. It is composed of sequences of processes (boxes) linked by material flows (arrows). Its basic characteristic is to divide a system into various subsystems and to carry out interconnection actions; main production, secondary production or co-product, production of auxiliary materials, energy production and the possibility of recovering it in the form of heat or electricity, energy consumption due to the various processes, means of transport used to transport the product and co-product, waste treatment. The flow-chart also enables visualising and then collecting input and output data for each process phase.
- Data collection.
- The definition of system boundaries: definition of the boundary points between the system studied and the environment.
- Data processing.
Analysis of potential impacts (LCIA)
The LCIA phase is the study of the environmental impact caused by a production process or activity, carried out with the help of some internationally used aggregate indicators that enable the quantification of potential impacts and the comparison of possible process or product alternatives, and calculation software. In this phase one moves from the figures calculated in the previous phase to the hazard assessment.
The analysis of potential impacts is broken down into four phases:
- Classification (qualitative stage, in which the inventory data are divided into groups of themes or categories of potential environmental impacts, these can be categorised into three broad areas of general protection: resource depletion, human health, environmental conservation);
- Characterisation, in which potential impacts are quantified and aggregated to identify the damage related to the substance emitted or resource used;
- Normalisation, which divides the values obtained in the previous step by the impact of the average one-year life of the average European citizen (or world population) in the same category, in order to make categories with different units comparable;
- Evaluation, which assigns a value in terms of importance to each impact and which can be carried out following different cultural perspectives.
The first two phases are compulsory, while the others are optional. In this study, only the classification and characterisation phases were considered.
Interpretation of results
This is the phase aimed at interpreting the results of the analysis by identifying environmental criticalities and highlighting the potential for improvement, both technical and managerial, in the life cycle of the product under study. To support the interpretation of the results, sensitivity analyses can be carried out in order to investigate the main assumptions of the study (e.g. regarding the scenarios considered for the modelling of the use phase and end-of-life).