Matching Items (6)

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Decision analysis for comparative life cycle assessment

Description

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) quantifies environmental impacts of products in raw material extraction, processing, manufacturing, distribution, use and final disposal. The findings of an LCA can be used to improve

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) quantifies environmental impacts of products in raw material extraction, processing, manufacturing, distribution, use and final disposal. The findings of an LCA can be used to improve industry practices, to aid in product development, and guide public policy. Unfortunately, existing approaches to LCA are unreliable in the cases of emerging technologies, where data is unavailable and rapid technological advances outstrip environmental knowledge. Previous studies have demonstrated several shortcomings to existing practices, including the masking of environmental impacts, the difficulty of selecting appropriate weight sets for multi-stakeholder problems, and difficulties in exploration of variability and uncertainty. In particular, there is an acute need for decision-driven interpretation methods that can guide decision makers towards making balanced, environmentally sound decisions in instances of high uncertainty. We propose the first major methodological innovation in LCA since early establishment of LCA as the analytical perspective of choice in problems of environmental management. We propose to couple stochastic multi-criteria decision analytic tools with existing approaches to inventory building and characterization to create a robust approach to comparative technology assessment in the context of high uncertainty, rapid technological change, and evolving stakeholder values. Namely, this study introduces a novel method known as Stochastic Multi-attribute Analysis for Life Cycle Impact Assessment (SMAA-LCIA) that uses internal normalization by means of outranking and exploration of feasible weight spaces.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013

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Comparative life cycle assessment of reused versus disposable dental burs

Description

Healthcare infection control has led to increased utilization of disposable medical devices, which has subsequently led to increased adverse environmental effects attributed to healthcare and its supply chain. In dental

Healthcare infection control has led to increased utilization of disposable medical devices, which has subsequently led to increased adverse environmental effects attributed to healthcare and its supply chain. In dental practice, the dental bur is a commonly used instrument that can either be reused or used once and then disposed. To evaluate the disparities in environmental impacts of disposable and reusable dental burs, a comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed. The comparative LCA evaluated a reusable dental bur (specifically, a 2.00mm Internal Irrigation Pilot Drill) reused 30 instances versus 30 identical burs used as disposables. The LCA methodology was performed using framework described by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14040 series. Sensitivity analyses were performed with respect to ultrasonic and autoclave loading. Findings from this research showed that when the ultrasonic and autoclave are loaded optimally, reusable burs had 40% less of an environmental impact than burs used on a disposable basis. When the ultrasonic and autoclave were loaded to 66% capacity, there was an environmental breakeven point between disposable and reusable burs. Eutrophication, carcinogenic impacts, non-carcinogenic impacts, and acidification were limited when cleaning equipment (i.e., ultrasonic and autoclave) were optimally loaded. Additionally, the bur's packaging materials contributed more negative environmental impacts than the production and use of the bur itself. Therefore, less materially-intensive packaging should be used. Specifically, the glass fiber reinforced plastic casing should be substituted for a material with a reduced environmental footprint.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2013

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Addressment of uncertainty and variability in attributional environmental life cycle assessment

Description

'Attributional' Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) quantitatively tracks the potential environmental impacts of international value chains, in retrospective, while ensuring that burden shifting is avoided. Despite the growing popularity of LCA

'Attributional' Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) quantitatively tracks the potential environmental impacts of international value chains, in retrospective, while ensuring that burden shifting is avoided. Despite the growing popularity of LCA as a decision-support tool, there are numerous concerns relating to uncertainty and variability in LCA that affects its reliability and credibility. It is pertinent that some part of future research in LCA be guided towards increasing reliability and credibility for decision-making, while utilizing the LCA framework established by ISO 14040.

In this dissertation, I have synthesized the present state of knowledge and application of uncertainty and variability in ‘attributional’ LCA, and contribute to its quantitative assessment.

Firstly, the present state of addressment of uncertainty and variability in LCA is consolidated and reviewed. It is evident that sources of uncertainty and variability exist in the following areas: ISO standards, supplementary guides, software tools, life cycle inventory (LCI) databases, all four methodological phases of LCA, and use of LCA information. One source of uncertainty and variability, each, is identified, selected, quantified, and its implications discussed.

The use of surrogate LCI data in lieu of missing dataset(s) or data-gaps is a source of uncertainty. Despite the widespread use of surrogate data, there has been no effort to (1) establish any form of guidance for the appropriate selection of surrogate data and, (2) estimate the uncertainty associated with the choice and use of surrogate data. A formal expert elicitation-based methodology to select the most appropriate surrogates and to quantify the associated uncertainty was proposed and implemented.

Product-evolution in a non-uniform manner is a source of temporal variability that is presently not considered in LCA modeling. The resulting use of outdated LCA information will lead to misguided decisions affecting the issue at concern and eventually the environment. In order to demonstrate product-evolution within the scope of ISO 14044, and given that variability cannot be reduced, the sources of product-evolution were identified, generalized, analyzed and their implications (individual and coupled) on LCA results are quantified.

Finally, recommendations were provided for the advancement of robustness of 'attributional' LCA, with respect to uncertainty and variability.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Stochastic Multi Attribute Analysis for comparative life cycle assessment

Description

Comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) evaluates the relative performance of multiple products, services, or technologies with the purpose of selecting the least impactful alternative. Nevertheless, characterized results are seldom conclusive.

Comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) evaluates the relative performance of multiple products, services, or technologies with the purpose of selecting the least impactful alternative. Nevertheless, characterized results are seldom conclusive. When one alternative performs best in some aspects, it may also performs worse in others. These tradeoffs among different impact categories make it difficult to identify environmentally preferable alternatives. To help reconcile this dilemma, LCA analysts have the option to apply normalization and weighting to generate comparisons based upon a single score. However, these approaches can be misleading because they suffer from problems of reference dataset incompletion, linear and fully compensatory aggregation, masking of salient tradeoffs, weight insensitivity and difficulties incorporating uncertainty in performance assessment and weights. Consequently, most LCA studies truncate impacts assessment at characterization, which leaves decision-makers to confront highly uncertain multi-criteria problems without the aid of analytic guideposts. This study introduces Stochastic Multi attribute Analysis (SMAA), a novel approach to normalization and weighting of characterized life-cycle inventory data for use in comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The proposed method avoids the bias introduced by external normalization references, and is capable of exploring high uncertainty in both the input parameters and weights.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2015

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Role of uncertainty in streamlined life cycle assessment--exploring the case of petrochemical refineries and polymer manufacturing units

Description

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is used in the chemical process sector to compare the environmental merits of different product or process alternatives. One of the tasks that involves much time

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is used in the chemical process sector to compare the environmental merits of different product or process alternatives. One of the tasks that involves much time and cost in LCA studies is the specification of the exact materials and processes modeled which has limited its widespread application. To overcome this, researchers have recently created probabilistic underspecification as an LCA streamlining method, which uses a structured data classification system to enable an LCA modeler to specify materials and processes in a less precise manner. This study presents a statistical procedure to understand when streamlined LCA methods can be used, and what their impact on overall model uncertainty is. Petrochemicals and polymer product systems were chosen to examine the impacts of underspecification and mis-specification applied to LCA modeling. Ecoinvent database, extracted using GaBi software, was used for data pertaining to generic crude oil refining and polymer manufacturing modules. By assessing the variation in LCA results arising out of streamlined materials classification, the developed statistics estimate the amount of overall error incurred by underspecifying and mis-specifying material impact data in streamlined LCA. To test the impact of underspecification and mis-specification at the level of a product footprint, case studies of HDPE containers and aerosol air fresheners were conducted. Results indicate that the variation in LCA results decreases as the specificity of materials increases. For the product systems examined, results show that most of the variability in impact assessment is due to the differences in the regions from which the environmental impact datasets were collected; the lower levels of categorization of materials have relatively smaller influence on the variance. Analyses further signify that only certain environmental impact categories viz. global warming potential, freshwater eutrophication, freshwater ecotoxicity, human toxicity and terrestrial ecotoxicity are affected by geographic variations. Outcomes for the case studies point out that the error in the estimation of global warming potential increases as the specificity of a component of the product decreases. Fossil depletion impact estimates remain relatively robust to underspecification. Further, the results of LCA are much more sensitive to underspecification of materials and processes than mis-specification.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2014

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Integrating environmentally responsible design with life cycle assessment in product and process development for sustainability

Description

Industrial activities have damaged the natural environment at an unprecedented scale. A number of approaches to environmentally responsible design and sustainability have been developed that are aimed at minimizing negative

Industrial activities have damaged the natural environment at an unprecedented scale. A number of approaches to environmentally responsible design and sustainability have been developed that are aimed at minimizing negative impacts derived from products on the environment. Environmental assessment methods exist as well to measure these impacts. Major environmentally responsible approaches to design and sustainability were analyzed using content analysis techniques. The results show several recommendations to minimize product impacts through design, and dimensions to which they belong. Two products made by a manufacturing firm with exceptional commitment to environmental responsibility were studied to understand how design approaches and assessment methods were used in their development. The results showed that the company used several strategies for environmentally responsible design as well as assessment methods in product and process machine design, both of which resulted in reduced environmental impacts of their products. Factors that contributed positively to reduce impacts are the use of measurement systems alongside environmentally responsible design, as well as inspiring innovations by observing how natural systems work. From a managerial perspective, positive influencing factors included a commitment to environmental responsibility from the executive level of the company and a clear vision about sustainability that has been instilled from the top through every level of employees. Additionally, a high degree of collaboration between the company and its suppliers and customers was instrumental in making the success possible.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
  • 2014