In 1996, UNEP published Life Cycle Assessment: What it is and How to do it to provide background information on the LCA concept and examples of current practice. Towards the Global Use of Life Cycle Assessment is a follow up to this guide.
In short, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool for evaluating the effects that a product or service has on the environment over the entire period of its life - from the extraction and processing of raw materials from which it is made, through the manufacturing, packaging and marketing processes, and the use, re-use and maintenance of the product, and on to its eventual recycling or disposal as waste at the end of its useful life.
LCA in various forms has been applied to production processes, product design and policy issues for several decades. However, there is also evidence, that LCA is not being utilized to its full potential, even in those countries that are most involved in its development and application. A major goal, therefore, is to increase the involvement of industry, consumers, non-governmental organizations and governments, and so bring about a greater awareness - among industrialists and consumers alike - of the consequences of their activities
Towards the Global Use of Life Cycle Assessment provides an action list of what can be done to overcome some of the existing barriers to LCA. It also contains numerous examples of LCA applications, and listings of LCA publications and key contact institutions.
The publication is based on a background report prepared by the Centre of Environmental Science (CML) at the University of Leiden in The Netherlands and on a survey carried out by the German Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IOW). It has been produced with the support of the governments of the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States.
Towards the Global Use of Life Cycle Assessment
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UNEP Information Note 1999/35