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12-12-2016 | COMMENTARY AND DISCUSSION ARTICLE | Issue 2/2017

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 2/2017

ReCiPe2016: a harmonised life cycle impact assessment method at midpoint and endpoint level

Journal:
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment > Issue 2/2017
Authors:
Mark A. J. Huijbregts, Zoran J. N. Steinmann, Pieter M. F. Elshout, Gea Stam, Francesca Verones, Marisa Vieira, Michiel Zijp, Anne Hollander, Rosalie van Zelm

Abstract

Purpose

Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) translates emissions and resource extractions into a limited number of environmental impact scores by means of so-called characterisation factors. There are two mainstream ways to derive characterisation factors, i.e. at midpoint level and at endpoint level. To further progress LCIA method development, we updated the ReCiPe2008 method to its version of 2016. This paper provides an overview of the key elements of the ReCiPe2016 method.

Methods

We implemented human health, ecosystem quality and resource scarcity as three areas of protection. Endpoint characterisation factors, directly related to the areas of protection, were derived from midpoint characterisation factors with a constant mid-to-endpoint factor per impact category. We included 17 midpoint impact categories.

Results and discussion

The update of ReCiPe provides characterisation factors that are representative for the global scale instead of the European scale, while maintaining the possibility for a number of impact categories to implement characterisation factors at a country and continental scale. We also expanded the number of environmental interventions and added impacts of water use on human health, impacts of water use and climate change on freshwater ecosystems and impacts of water use and tropospheric ozone formation on terrestrial ecosystems as novel damage pathways. Although significant effort has been put into the update of ReCiPe, there is still major improvement potential in the way impact pathways are modelled. Further improvements relate to a regionalisation of more impact categories, moving from local to global species extinction and adding more impact pathways.

Conclusions

Life cycle impact assessment is a fast evolving field of research. ReCiPe2016 provides a state-of-the-art method to convert life cycle inventories to a limited number of life cycle impact scores on midpoint and endpoint level.

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