The Life Cycle Analysis - The Basics

Life Cycle

Life Cycle Analysis is a tool that studies the environmental aspects and potential impacts throughout a product's life - “from cradle-to-grave”. In the case of detergents and cleaning products, LCA looks at criteria ranging from the raw material selection to production, distribution, use and disposal.

In terms of sustainable development, it is important that the whole life cycle of the product be taken into account. For example, one should not only look at how the product is made (design, manufacturing, packaging, distribution) but also how it is used. The general categories of environmental impact include resource use, human health, and ecological consequences (such as water, energy, waste impact).

The LCA graph below shows that most of a household laundry detergent’s impact occurs at the use phase. Encouraging consumers to do their bit, i.e. to change their behaviour to more sustainable consumption patterns, is therefore one of the more promising ways to help protect the environment.

Life Cycle Analysis of Compact Fabric washing powder & main wash process
(source: A.I.S.E. LCA Task Force)

Life Cycle Analysis
Life Cycle Analysis

Note: COD; Chemical Oxygen Demand.

As the graph shows, Life Cycle Analysis indicates that emissions are particularly high during the use and disposal phases for household laundry detergents.  Any reduction in consumption volumes and wash temperatures would also reduce the impact of production and transport energy, packaging and solid waste – and therefore overall environmental impact. This underlines the need to encourage sustainable design as well as consumption.

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