Life cycle assessment and multiobjective optimisation

A. Azapagic, R. Clift

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    Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to identify and quantify the environmental performance of a process or a product from "cradle to grave". Its main potential in environmental decision-making lies in providing a quantitative basis for assessing potential improvements in environmental performance of a system throughout the life cycle. This paper introduces the use of multiobjective system optimisation in LCA as a tool for identifying and evaluating the best possible options for environmental management of the product system. A life cycle of a system is optimised on a number of environmental objective functions, defined in terms of the usual LCA burden or impact categories, and a range of environmental optima is found on the Pareto or non-inferior surface. As a result, possibilities for improving the environmental performance of the system are identified. Since system improvements cannot be carried out on the basis of environmental LCA only, it is also shown in this paper that the compromise between environmental and economic performance can be found on the non-inferior surface. The value of multi objective optimisation in system analysis lies in providing a set of alternative options for system improvements rather than a single prescriptive solution, thus enabling the choice of the Best Practicable Environmental Option (BPEO) and Best Available Technique Not Entailing Excessive Cost (BATNEEC). This approach is illustrated by application to a real case study of a system producing five borate products. © 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)135-143
    Number of pages8
    JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


    • Boron products
    • Life Cycle Assessment
    • Multiobjective optimisation
    • Pareto optimum
    • System analysis


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