Choice of system boundaries in life cycle assessment
Journal article, 1994

System boundaries in life cycle assessments (LCA) must be specified in several dimensions: boundaries between the technological system and nature, delimitations of the geographical area and time horizon considered, boundaries between production and production of capital goods and boundaries between the life cycle of the product studied and related life cycles of other products. Principles for choice of system boundaries are discussed, especially concerning the last dimension. Three methods for defining the contents of the analysed system in this respect are described: process tree, technological whole system and socio-economic whole system. The methods are described in the application's multi-output processes and cascade recycling, and examples are discussed. It is concluded that system boundaries must be relevant in relation to the purpose of an LCA, that processes outside the process tree in many cases have more influence on the result than details within the process tree, and that the different methods need to be further compared in practice and evaluated with respect to both relevance, feasibility and uncertainty.

life cycle assessment


system boundaries


Anne-Marie Tillman

Department of Technical Environmental Planning

Tomas Ekvall

Department of Technical Environmental Planning

Henrikke Baumann

Department of Technical Environmental Planning

Tomas Rydberg

Department of Chemical Environmental Science

Journal of Cleaner Production

0959-6526 (ISSN)

Vol. 2 1 21-29

Subject Categories

Other Environmental Engineering



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