How to: Obtain data for LCA

Learn strategies for obtaining data for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

Emily Lalonde avatar
Written by Emily Lalonde
Updated this week

The availability of foreground and background data often limits LCA. Foreground data refers to how much energy, materials, etc., we use as input for our product. This could be, for example, how many kWh of electricity are used. On the other hand, background data (also known as impact data) is about the emissions associated with the foreground data. For example, emissions are associated with generating 1 kWh of electricity. While you can easily measure foreground data or find it within your company, the impact data can be obtained from an existing LCA, EPD, or LCI database.

This article describes methods to get the foreground and background information to perform LCA.


Ask the supplier

The best data source is your specific suppliers, which are often referred to as primary data sources. If they have an LCA or EPD of their product available, and you're using the same LCIA standards and methods (which is likely if you operate in the same industry), you can directly use their results.

In the case of a mismatch between LCIA standards and methods, the detailed life cycle inventory (foreground and background data) obtained from the supplier can be used to reassess the impacts using the desired standards and methods.


Use databases

Databases are referred to as the secondary source of information because they represent an average of the products and processes. Various databases in the market can be used as a secondary data source. There are multiple alternatives to using the data from these databases. This article discusses alternative options for modeling chemicals.


Create a dataset

A customized dataset corresponding to a product or process can be created using a combination of the pre-existing datasets from a database. For example, when no direct dataset for calculating the impacts associated with Peanut Butter exists, a customized dataset comprising the impacts from peanuts, the processing involved, and a container can be made. The same methodology can be adopted while modeling impacts from futuristic energy scenarios.


Get a specialist support

Ecochain has an extensive pool of experts. They can help you to create customized datasets as per your requests. For example, the energy produced from biomass gasification needs to be modeled, considering the various processes involved (transporting, drying, chopping, thermal treatment, gas abetment, etc. ) . Our experts can help you model a complete process consistent with the industry guidelines. Additionally, we have access to data from various database providers which can be curated to meet your needs upon request.


Declare it a data gap

Although the unavailability of the data for performing LCA is well acknowledged in the scientific and business community, declaring a data gap is the last resort. Moreover, it should be mentioned in the assessment to maintain transparency. In such a scenario, the following options must be examined.

  • Can the impacts of the process/product be estimated using a proxy?

  • Can we change the scope of the study? For example, if the end-of-life scenario can not be modeled, LCA can be performed between cradle-to-gate instead of cradle-to-cradle.

  • Check for regulation guidelines for the approximation of the impacts.

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