Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was developed over the last years as a tool enabling the identification and assessment of the environmental impacts associated with a product, process, or activity by quantifying raw materials, energy and waste it releases into air, water and soil.
In the case of Industrial Minerals, the LCA covers the extraction, processing, manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal steps, including transportation, along the entire supply chain (i.e. upstream and downstream). It allows estimating the environmental impacts resulting from all stages in the product life cycle.
ISO 14040-14044 standards determine the generic framework for conducting an LCA. There are 4 main steps to be considered while conducting a LCA:
- Goal and scope definition;
- Life cycle inventory (LCI);
- Life cycle impact assessment;
- Life cycle interpretation.
Some of the main environmental impacts investigated within an LCA are: greenhouse global warming potential, water footprint, energy consumption, acidification, abotic depletion, and so on…
LCA has become one of the main pillars driving the European policy with respect to sustainable use of resources, sustainable consumption and production, eco- labeling, eco-design, innovation, waste prevention and waste recycling, to mention just a few.
The European Commission (via the JRC, Joint Research Center) developed the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) handbook, providing governments and businesses with a basis for assuring quality and consistency of life cycle data, methods and assessments. The ILCD Handbook is in line with international standards and has been established through a series of extensive public and stakeholder consultations to accommodate the life cycle data from various regions of the world.
With the objective to provide stakeholders (e.g. authorities, customers) with European average representative environmental footprint values, IMA-Europe conducted and finalized a life cycle inventory (LCI) study, following the ISO 14040-14044 standards, on eight industrial mineral products. The minerals were selected for their high production volumes and the wide range of applications in which they are used. Based on their production processes and the related overall energy consumption, it was possible to group the various products into three families and calculate the respective environmental footprint per family.
To further refine the generic findings from the IMA-Europe study, some of the different sections of the IMA-Europe have initiated their own LCI. The European Lime Association (EuLA) LCI study on quicklime and hydrated lime was finalized in 2011. The Calcium Carbonate Association (CCA-Europe) LCI was finalised in September 2014.
The LCI data from IMA-Europe and its different sections are published in the European life cycle database (ELCD).