How do environmental databases work in Helix and Mobius?

This article gives general information and guidance regarding the environmental databases available in Helix and Mobius

1.1 General explanation

With around 17,000 Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) datasets in many areas such as energy supply, agriculture, transport, biofuels and biomaterials, bulk and specialty chemicals, construction materials, wood, and waste treatment, ecoinvent is the most comprehensive, transparent, international LCI database.

In the Ecochain & Mobius applications the Ecoinvent database is available to link to your products, materials, energy and wastes to obtain the environmental impact.

Explanations on how to add Ecoinvent references are provided here:

In Ecochain Helix

In Ecochain Mobius


System models

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

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

The underlying philosophy is that a producer is fully responsible for the disposal of its wastes, and that he does 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 uses. The treatment of wastes is completely allocated to the waste producer and all valuable by-products of waste treatment are cut off in the waste treatment, and become available burden-free. Ordinary by-products are handled by allocating 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.

Market for & Production references

1. For a given product you can select ‘Market for’ or ‘Production’. When selecting ‘Market for’, a mix of references is represented for a given product or region and the average transport distances and product losses are considered. When selecting ‘Production’, only the production for a given product from raw material is taken into account. Here it is important to note that for some products the production methods or raw materials used are specified. So when it’s known which exact mineral or method is used, select the proper reference.


Location & database codes
Every activity present in the database has a geographic location. In Ecochain Mobius the geographic location is indicated in the reference searcher per database item. In Ecochain Helix the geographic locations are reported using internationally accepted codes: 

  • GLO= Global
  • RoW= Rest of the world (Global without Switzerland)
  • ReR= Europe
  • CH= Switzerland
  • CN= China
  • DE= Germany
For more information on abbreviations click here:
Terminology in LCA
3. There are also some codes representing databases that are specific for the Netherlands:
  • SBK: Stichting Bouwkwaliteit (references addressing building material for the Dutch buidling sector)
  • NMD: Nationale Milieudatabase (a database which is based on Ecoinvent, focused on the Netherlands)

1.2 Search for your material or process

1) look up the material or process you are looking for by typing in the specific name in the search bar. If the material or process cannot be found, try looking for synonyms. For example: check whether a substance is available under a different name. There are various synonyms, e.g. you may not find ‘Phenyl ethane’, but you will find ‘Ethyl benzene’, which is the same substance.

An important thing that should be kept in mind is that the reference of the material you are looking for is generally only giving you the finished material. For example: the plastics available in databases are generally only the finished polymer (granulates), which need to be further converted into products.

2) when looking for a process, the same holds. This means that a (conversion) process has to be added separately. For example: For some processes described on the sheets only the environmental impact of process itself is included, and not of the raw material. So if you for example want to produce plastic films from LDPE, you have to select the plastic LDPE, and the extrusion process for plastic films.
3) pick the geographical region (e.g. GLO, ReR) closest to your specific material or process.
4) Some other general rules are:
- Always pick the most recent reference.
- Verified references are preferred over unverified.
- In case of doubt between two references, pick the reference with the highest impact (worst case assumption).