MO.1.A || Life Cycle Approaches in the Raw Materials Sector

Reuter, Benjamin

Preserving resources is undoubtedly an essential pillar of sustainability and hence forms an important element in LCA. Nevertheless, there is a huge number of different approaches for assessing resource depletion within LCA [A]. The Abiotic Depletion Potential (ADP), documented very well by Guinée et al. [B], represents the probably most widely used assessment method for this impact in LCA. It is not only highly popular amongst LCA practitioners but is also recommended by methodology experts [A, C]. This contribution focusses on how the ADP characterisation factors (ADP CF) are calculated, provides valuable insights, raises some questions, and provides levers of improvement. Publications from the mid 1990s show three different approaches on determining ADP CF [D, E]. The first uses the inverse of a material’s available quantity (AQ). The second uses the inverse of its so-called static lifetime, which is the ratio of available quantity and extraction rate (ER). The third one combines both by multiplying the two mentioned factors. This default method of determining the ADP CF, however, comes with some significant concerns. The fundamental reason for those is that these two factors have a highly different influence on the ADP CF. This imbalance is especially strong if the AQ is based on a material’s economic reserves or resources. Unintended effects become very evident in an example with real geological data [F]: the static lifetime of the aluminium reserves has decreased by 46% between the years 1999 and 2013 and for the reference substance, Antimony, it has decreased by „only“ 32%. Due to the overweighting of the AQ, however, aluminium’s ADP CF does not increase, but paradoxically decreases. There are several approaches for overcoming these weaknesses and for improving the ADP CF calculation, which will be provided in this oral contribution. [A] UNEP/SETAC/LCI, 2019 [B] Guinée et al., 2001 [C] EC JRS, 2011 [D] Guinée, 1995 [E] Fava et al, 1992 [F] USGS, 2001+2015