LCA Society of Japan

LCA Project (FY2003-FY2005)


Japan has implemented various measures to solve the environmental issues such as the reduction of the carbon dioxide emissions. One of them is the reduction of the carbon dioxide emission in accordance with the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol treaty on global warming. For the attainment of Japan's goal, which is to realize a sustainable society, it is important to promote activities to reduce environmental burdens in society as a whole. Industrial companies and other organizations should adopt the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method as a help for judging and making decisions on their business management. Municipalities and local governments may also adopt LCA when considering fostering local industries or introducing new or outside industries to their communities.

To promote and expand the use of LCA technology, through this research and development JEMAI collected data on specific products from industrial companies and other organizations to calculate the environmental burden at each stage of their life cycle, and to advance the calculation method for the environmental impact of products and related systems. JEMAI also investigated the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) of the particular products using the effective environmental impact calculation method, identified the issues through the case studies and compiled the culculation manual for the environmental impact concerning the life cycle of the products. The data obtained through this project will be added in the "LCA Database (operated by LCA Society of Japan)" which is established at the first phase of the LCA project.

PART I. LCA for products

Specifically, JEMAI focused on three types of products which are bending machines, isolated houses and information and communication technology (ICT), and collected the inventory data concerning the manufacturing, assembling, use and the disposal of the products from responsible for manufacturing these products. In addition to collecting the data, JEMAI conducted LCI analysis as the case studies using the existing database applicable to the above product systems. In these case studies 90% of the inventory data of the product systems was covered by the data through the calculation of LCA and the data from the existing literature. Through these case studies, JEMAI scrutinized the inventory data of manufacturing, assembling, use and disposal of each product and elaborated the manual for implementing LCA on the products and related systems.

From data collection processes, data measuring and calculation methods and LCI analysis used for the three particular products, JEMAI extracted the processes that are generally consistent and important between each product as well as the processes that are peculiar to each product but can be a useful reference when implementing LCA on the other products. JEMAI studied and assembled the means for generalizing the extracted data collection processes and data collection methods to be applicable to other products. JEMAI subsequently compiled a manual and sorted the technical problems for implementing the environmental impact load calculation through this research and development.

Aiming to widely introduce the achievements and encourage the dissemination of the environmental impact load calculation method and the activities to reduce environmental burdens as addressed in this project, JEMAI's continuing efforts have included the hosting of Eco-Products Exhibition as an "exhibition of environmental-conscious products", as well as holding of various seminars. Over 500 companies and organizations have participated in these exhibitions and seminars, receiving more than 140,000 visitors.

PART II LCA for end-of-life stage

To develop and promote the technology for the use of LCA technology with a focus on the end-of-life stage of the life cycle of products, under this research and development JEMAI verified the inventory of recycling processes of used household appliances, End-of-Life Vehicles (ELVs) and used plastic products, as well as the recycling flow of these products to be returned to the production side. JEMAI also performed an inventory analysis with the inventory data of the processes collected using the effective environmental impact calculation method, followed by identifying issues through case studies and organizing the issues, and then established the implementation manual for the environmental impact load calculation method with regard to the recycling processes. The data obtained through this project will be added in the "LCA Database (operated by LCA Society of Japan)" containing the results of the first phase of the LCA project.

JEMAI focused on used plastic, which is designated as general waste in Containers and Packaging Recycling Law, and on those plastic which is made of specific material and to be classified as "industrial waste". JEMAI investigated the processes including the recycling and final disposal of these plastic products, and compiled the findings as the inventory data with a clear delineation of the system boundaries for different types of used plastic processing technologies - material recycling, thermal recycling and chemical recycling. For ELVs, End-of-Life Vehicle Recycling Law that came into effect in January 2005, it mandated a proper recycling and disposal of CFCs used as air conditioner refrigerants as well as automobile shredder residue (ASR) and airbags. Through this research and development, JEMAI established the inventory of the ELV handling processes currently being practiced such as dismantling process, shredding process and ASR landfill disposal. JEMAI collected additional inventory data by conducting interviews to recycling companies on advanced processes including ASR recycling, recycling of other car parts (ASR reduction), and incineration of ASR. In regards to the recycling of used household appliances, JEMAI also investigated in this research and development the used electric appliances that are currently covered by Home Appliance Recycling Law and used electronic devices that require further efforts in establishing a recycling system (e.g. personal computers). Focusing on both the advanced recycling system and the conventional handling system for these products, JEMAI determined the material flow leading to the production side of the recycling for different processes including recycling of collected products, interim processing for the residues and the final disposal of the items, then examined the inventory data of each process. To develop assessment methods JEMAI analyzed the inventory data based on the measured data for three categories (used plastic processing, ELV processing and used household appliance processing), identified the issues through the inventory analysis and discussed the measures to be taken. Based on the results of the inventory analysis, JEMAI developed the down-stream LCA method with respect to each individual research objective, and compiled the implementation manual.