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Life-Cycle Assessments
GDA Home > Sustainability > Life-Cycle Assessments

Shedding Light on Ecological Interrelationships – from Bauxite Mining to Recycling

Life-cycle assessments shed light on the overall effects on the environment. They consider the complete life cycle of a material:
  • production incl. acquisition of the raw materials
  • processing
  • utilisation of the product including its benefits
  • recycling/reprocessing or disposal
A life-cycle assessment can also be divided into four stages:
  • Definition of the aim of the life-cycle assessment with a precise conceptual framework and a definition of who the study is aimed at (target group). Important here is also whether the study is intended for publication or internal use.
  • Review of the situation for all stages of the life cycle. Where a comparison is made with other products, attention should be given to ensuring the data are absolutely comparable.
  • Analysis of environmentally unfriendly effects (for example CO2 emissions, quantity of waste, impurities in water, health risks, etc.)
  • Interpretation/evaluation of the results from an ecological point of view.
ISO Standard 14044 defines the requirements and methods for conducting a life-cycle assessment. In the review of the situation, all consumption and emission data of ecological relevance are recorded. In the analysis, the data recorded in the review are aggregated and evaluated with respect to their environmental compatibility and impact.

The final evaluation summarises the results and makes a corresponding recommendation. The results are often considered from different viewpoints.

A thorough Assessment is Essential

A life-cycle assessment does not usually claim to be completely accurate from a scientific point of view. There are often too many variables and imponderabilities. What is important are the criteria used by those who want to use the assessments for advice on how best to do business, such as a packaging plant that wants to know if it makes ecological sense or not for it to change over to aluminium packaging.

Comparability is Essential

As mentioned earlier, a decisive factor with life-cycle assessments is ensuring comparability of the data. Thus it would be of little use to only include, for example, the production effort in a comparison without at the same time considering the demands made on the product during use. Here it is important that comparisons are not made on the basis of a kilogram of material because aluminium products are light. One can manufacture 60 cans from a kilogram of aluminium, which can be used to package 30 litres of drinks. In contrast, only three glass bottles can be made from a kilogram of glass, with a beverage content of one-and-a-half litres. Similarly in the building industry: about twice as much roof area can be produced from aluminium as from an equivalent weight of steel. These are factors that benefit aluminium products when it comes to a life-cycle assessment.

If parts are in motion, such as in a car or truck, aluminium has an advantage in any case.

Life-cycle assessments are actively supported by the aluminium industry.
Your contact person in charge of this page: Jörg H. Schäfer