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Understanding Ecoinvent References

Cut-off model, markets, locations... All you need to know about using ecoinvent in Mobius

With over 19,000 Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) datasets in various sectors such as energy supply, construction materials, transport, biomaterials, chemicals, agriculture, wood, and waste treatment, ecoinvent is the most comprehensive, transparent, international LCI database.


In the Mobius application the ecoinvent database is available to link to your products, materials, energy and wastes to obtain the environmental impact. More about linking and searching in the database can be found in the previous Getting Started articles.

Finding an appropriate reference from the ecoinvent database is important for creating accurate environmental footprints, but can be challenging. With the tips and tricks below we hope to get you started!


The ecoinvent reference search results currently look like this:


The structure of each reference contains the following information:

Activity or Process name | Product (Output) name | Cutoff, U
Region | Amount unit and property | Database name and version

By clicking 'More information', you can open a reference to view some additional details. For instance, it tells you what category the reference is part of, and gives you the original description ecoinvent provides for the respective reference.


Process name

When selecting a product from the database always check if the product is produced by the correct process that is relevant for you. In the example above, the product “foam glass” is the same in all three references, but the process producing it is different. The first reference comes from a market activity, the second reference does not use glass cullet to produce the foam glass, whilst the third reference does contain glass cullet.



A market dataset collects all activities with the same reference product in a certain geographical region. Furthermore, it includes average transports of that product within the geography, as well as inputs of the product itself to cover any representative losses. In other words, they are consumption mixes of a certain product in a certain geographical region. There are either global or local markets, depending on real-life conditions and on the availability of local transforming activities for specific products. More about ecoinvent markets here.



The geographical region is important in choosing a product from the database. Make use of regional references that closely resemble the production location of your product. If your specific country is not available, you can try a neighboring country, or the continent. Sometimes you will need to make use of references from the Global, or Rest-of-World regions.


List of available ecoinvent references

A complete list of all ecoinvent activities and products can be found here, ecoinvent activity overview.

The page provides an overview of the entire ecoinvent database, as well as the covered activities and products. 


Some recommended references to use in The Netherlands

Based on the Dutch NMD Bepalingsmethode v1.1


market for electricity, low voltage | electricity, low voltage | Cutoff, U

Region: Netherlands

Natural gas, burned in industrial furnace

(31,7 MJ/m3)

heat production, natural gas, at industrial furnace >100kW | heat, district or industrial, natural gas | Cutoff, U

Region: Europe without Switzerland

Diesel, burned in building machine

(35,8 MJ/liter)

diesel, burned in building machine | diesel, burned in building machine | Cutoff, U

Region: Global


market for tap water | tap water | Cutoff, U

Region: Europe

Transport by lorry

market for transport, freight, lorry, unspecified | transport, freight, lorry, unspecified | Cutoff, U

Region: Europe

Transport by barge

market for transport, freight, inland waterways, barge | transport, freight, inland waterways, barge | Cutoff, U

Region: Europe

Transport by transoceanic ship

market for transport, freight, sea, transoceanic ship | transport, freight, sea, transoceanic ship | Cutoff, U

Region: Global



System models

All system models are based on the same underlying data of real-world processes, but  your LCA model may benefit from different underlying modelling choices.

In Mobius, the recommended and widely used “Allocation, cut-off by classification” system model is available. This system model in short, is based on the Recycled Content, or cut-off, approach.  

The underlying methodology is that a producer is fully responsible for the disposal of their generated waste streams, and that they do not receive any credit for the provision of any recyclable materials.

The cut-off system model has, broadly speaking, the effect that recyclable materials are 'cut-off' at the beginning of the treatment processes, becoming available burden-free for following, subsequent uses. The treatment of generated waste streams is completely allocated to the waste producer, all valuable by-products of waste treatment are cut off in the waste treatment, and become available burden-free in the next life cycle. Ordinary by-products are handled by allocating them between the products if an activity produces more than one of them.

More information on the cut-off model can be found here Ecoinvent Cut-off model.