Frequently Asked Questions

1. FAQs on the eco-costs:

Eco-costs are hidden environmental costs that our society bears: the harm to nature, human health, and the depletion of natural resources. In economics, these are known as “external costs,” meaning costs that are not yet included in our economic system. The use of almost all products and services comes with eco-costs. We must reduce this damage drastically to a level that Mother Earth can carry. However, the changes required to achieve this do cost money. The University of Delft has calculated as accurately as possible the money that is needed, under the condition that we take prevention measures urgently. The target norm is the so-called “no-effect level,” and the calculation technique is that of preventive costs. Economically, we don’t need degrowth, provided we redesign our current economy: we should not waste our money on damage itself, but use it to reduce the damage, i.e. we must take prevention measures and must introduce the circular economy.

In the environment, we face more than just the climate problem. There are many different pollution problems related to water, soil, and air. Eco-costs have been calculated for the most significant issues:

The most important issues are:

  1. Climate change, where weather systems are thrown out of balance because we, as humans, are releasing far too much carbon into the atmosphere, which was safely stored in our Earth’s crust for millions of years.
  2. Biodiversity e.g. in European Natura 2000 areas, where (a) agriculture, industry, and transport have been emitting excessive nitrogen compounds for decades, leading to the overgrowth of unique plants by grasses and weeds, and (b) forests and birds are dying due to acidification from sulfur emissions.
  3. Clean water in lakes, rivers, and oceans, where (a) an excess of phosphates from fertilizers causes oxygen depletion in lakes, suffocating ecosystems, (b) toxic substances from industry (chemistry and metals) make all life in rivers disappear, and (c) the “plastic soup” in the ocean severely threatens underwater life.
  4. Human health is increasingly affected by the accumulation of deadly and harmful toxic substances in the human body. This may not noticed by individual people, but the devastating effects are evident in medical statistics. It becomes increasingly clear in cities and countries that this cannot continue.
  5. Materials scarcity is increasingly a sustainability issue: (a) the growing population in our world needs ever more materials (b) the elimination of fossil fuels goes hand in hand with increased demand of metals,  (c) geopolitical tensions may cause sudden disruptions of supply chains.

See for further information: 
concept and structureemissionsresource scarcityenergyland-use, and Social- eco-costs

The concept of damage costs is most suitable to make people (and politicians) aware of the glooming situation of our planet. However it is hardly possible to calculate the damage costs.
As an example: CO2 emissions > CO2 concentration > increase in temperature > all effects > the sum of the costs for each effect.
Especially the damage costs of nature are hard to establish, since these costs can not be valued (different people will allocate different costs to the same damage).
An interesting issue is that all damage based systems (also in “points”) suffer from this unsolvable problem: who decides “what is more serious than what”? What is the required Performance Reference Point? Are the norms and values of an expert panel leading? Or political preferences? Or the opinions of people in the street? This issue is well described in the system of ReCiPe indicator.

The concept of the prevention costs is most suitable to make business people aware of the fact that a product may become too expensive in future in comparison with the green alternative (because of eco-tax or tradable emission rights).
This indicator is suitable for people who are convinced that “something has to be done”, but wonder what it will cost. They are aware that environmental protection should be realised in the most costs-effective way.
Calculation of prevention costs is not simple, but doable.
As an example: max. stable CO2 concentration > max. CO2 emissions > costs of the technical measures to reduce the current emissions.
The weak spot in the prevention based calculation is the level at which the concentration has to be reduced (the Performance Reference Point). For some emissions this level is zero which means that the substance must be banned (examples; DDT, CFKs), but for many substances there is a ‘no effect level’ which is higher than zero. This level, at which the damage costs are per definition zero, is sometimes under heavy scientific debate (example: dust).

The concept of shadow prices is an approach of some economists. The idea is that prevention measures must be taken when the prevention costs are lower than the damage costs. However, when the damage costs are lower than the prevention costs, one should accept the damage. The shadow price is the point where the damage line crosses the prevention line. See Fig. 7.1.
The problem of this concept is threefold:

1. It is hardly possible to determine the costs-curve of damage
2. It only can work for damage to human lives under the following condition: the money involved is
transferred from the party which causes the emissions to the people who suffer from it. It cannot
work for damage to nature (since loss of nature cannot be compensated with money)
3. Since the level of ‘willingness to accept compensation’ is much lower for poor people than for rich
people, it is not possible to put a price tag on it.

A proposed way out is that the party which causes the emission pays to the government. The price is then determined by politics. However is this system politicians appear to judge on the basis “is it affordable for the industry?”, resulting in a price which is far to low (the ‘willingness to pay’ is usually a factor 10 lower than the ‘willingness to accept compensation’).
Concluding: the shadow price is not an acceptable concept, since it doesn’t work in practice and seems to be morally wrong.

What to do with environmental protection in countries outside Europe is a moral choice.
The article in which the virtual pollution prevention costs was introduced as a new single indicator for LCA (Vogtlander et al 2000), ended with the following “call for comments”:
(quote) …………
3. Especially for developing countries, it is possible to make a quick estimate of the pollution prevention costs (1. assess the regional environmental problems; 2. make a list of measures to be taken; 3. determine the marginal prevention costs for each class). This could result in a set of data for each different regions.
Such a calculation model however makes sense only when the Life Cycle Inventory of emissions does take into account the region where the emission occurs, which adds quite some complications to the current LCA methodology. Do you feel there is a need for such an enhancement of the LCA methodology? Why and for which type of situations? Or do you feel that the LCA methodology should be kept simple?
4. The underlying idea of point 3 is that the developing countries cannot afford the prevention measures of the western world, and they don’t need them (because their emission levels are low). However one may argue differently: in order to gain maximum environmental protection, best practices in the field of prevention measures should be applied world wide and “export of environmental problems for economic reasons” should be suppressed. Such an approach would require world wide standards for prevention measures and/or prevention costs (in Euro or US $ per kg equivalent per class).
In such a model regions with high emissions will have a high economic burden to prevent these emissions, regardless of there own sustainability norms and there economic situation. As a consequence the western world has to subsidise the developing countries where necessary.
How should we arrive at such world wide norms? Do we expect then norms which will be totally different from the norms presented in this article, and if so why?


Of the people who commented, 9 out of 10 said that they were in favour of the idea that eco-costs should be a world-wide norm, based on the heavily polluted regions which need the most strict and best technology (Los Angeles, London, Rotterdam, Tokyo, Rhurgebied, Turin, Beijing, Delhi, Calcutta, Cairo, Mexico City, etc.).
The underlying philosophy is (as an extreme example): when the automotive industry develops cars with low levels of pollution, it is not acceptable that old, heavy polluting, jeeps are used at Antarctica (even when concentration levels at Antarctica are still low).
Only 1 out of 10 people followed the argument that poor countries cannot afford the prevention costs, and therefore must have lower eco-costs norms in LCA.

The reaction on the last sentence of the call for comments was, that we should start with the European prevention costs, and find out later whether or not the standards are strict enough for the heavily polluted areas outside Europe.

Nevertheless it is interesting to make calculations on the marginal prevention costs in other regions (simplified calculations have been made in japan, South Korea and a Chinese local area). Background information for such calculations are given in the Thesis, Annex 2a, and answers on questions to a Chinese colleague.

This issue is directly related to the international discussions (United Nations Climate Change Conferences) on who should carry the costs of climate change: the demand of poor countries to get compensation of the rich countries for their costs caused by climate change.

The eco-costs of electricity is not directly related to the price of oil and gas.
The reason is that the marginal prevention costs is primarily based on the replacement of electricity from coal-fired power plants by electricity from windmills parks at sea (the most expensive solution on the road to sufficient CO2 reduction).
The costs of coal is highly related to the actual costs of production and transport, and has been rather stable in the past 70 years. Although speculation has increased the price of coal considerably in the period 1975- 1984, and in the years 2011, 2016 and 2018, this peaks in coal prices stabilized back to the production costs (below. 60 USD/ton in 2020). So it is expected that the price of coal will just follow the general trend of price inflation, as the price of windmills from the sea will do. Therefore, de level of eco-costs of energy is relatively stable and will follow the price inflation.

The main issue, however, in these calculations is the increasing efficiency of windmills with the increasing size and height.

The eco-costs of CO2 are basically not influenced by any subsidy, tax, or Carbon Permit price.
The reason is that the calculations are made on the basis of real costs (excluding tax or subsidy).

The effect of the EU ETS system is that it is likely that a high Carbon Permit price will stimulate the industry to take prevention measures (that are cheaper than the permits). This lowers the total CO2 emissions, but not the eco-costs of CO2. The reason is that eco-costs of CO2 are marginal prevention costs . These marginal prevention costs are stable in time during the transition towards a sustainable society. This is depicted in Fig. A.2.3 of Annex 2c (“Why marginal prevention costs instead of  total prevention costs”) of the Thesis. So the marginal prevention costs (Euro/kg), being the slope of line b at the “norm for sustainability”, will remain constant throughout the total transition process.

Another issue is that of “revealed preferences”.
Revealed preferences in environmental economics is the idea that the general public already accepts the extra costs of a specific prevention measure. So the measure is paid by the public, which is the case in Europe for the extra price of electricity from offshore windmills.
This does not change the fact that the marginal prevention costs (on a real costs basis) is still there, and is still the same:
(a) When governments ease the restrictions of energy production, the markets would fall back to the cheapest system of production (as it was done during the hike in energy prices at the start of the war in Ukraine)
(b) It is an extra reason to implement prevention measures that are less expensive, but still are to be done (a matter of urgency).

Therefore, a revealed preference does not mean that the eco-costs of it is zero. In the contrary: for a lot of eco-costs, the revealed preference has been taken as the Performance Reference Point (see above point 1.2).

2. FAQs on LCA:

How to define the Functional Unit?
The functional unit (FU) follows from the aim (purpose) of your study: it is not possible to define the FU when the aim of the LCA is not clear. The FU defines how the aim is quantified in the LCA.
The FU of a cradle-to-grave system is a combination of the functional specification of the system and the unit in which this functionality is expressed. Examples: the use of a car per km, transported materials per or per, drinks per 1000 cups of coffee.
The functional unit is the reference unit for the study (the delivery), and answers the questions “What? How much? How long? Which quality?”. The functional unit must make sure that the comparison in a benchmarking study must be fair.

A lot of students (and other people as well) have difficulties with defining the FU. However, following your instinct is often the best way to define a fair FU for benchmarking, because you know what definition is needed for a fair comparison in a practical case (e.g. the quantity of a product or a service with certain characteristics)

In practice, the FU specifies the freedom of design, see the Table below.

In formula:
FU = {system function} per {unit of calculation} {plus optional: a short summary of the main scenario, e.g. a specific country, a specific transport scenario, a time span}

Note. The FU may even be a technical specification, normally applied ‘ex-post’ to identify the hotspot in the design of an existing product.

The Declared Unit to replace the FU
Where a FU is not practical, the Declared Unit is applied in LCA. There are two situations:
(a) materials that can fulfill many functions (e.g. steel, wood, plastics, water, fuels), with a Declared Unit of 1 kg, 1 m3, or energy (heat, electricity), with a Declared Unit of 1kWh or 1 MJ.
(b) specific products (e.g. a chair, a shoe), where the product can have more than one specific function (they must carry people, but often they have also a function of beauty and/or personality). The Declared Unit in such cases is ‘per chair’, ‘per shoe’.

The quality aspects
One of the issues here is whether or not quality aspects must be part of the definition of the FU.
In general, the following is advised:
– For LCA benchmarking (comparisons) on the basis of eco-costs only, quality issues must be part of the definition of the functional unit, since the products which have to be compared must be identical and must have the same quality. As a result, such comparisons are only useful in the optimization of the application of materials in products. This is the case in ‘ex-post’ analyses of existing products, In innovation (and product design), the quality of the new product-service system is never the same. In such comparisons (often ‘ex-ante’), the EVR (Eco-costs/Value Ratio) model must be applied.
– For comparisons on the basis of the EVR, quality aspects must be kept out of the definition of the functional unit, since quality is part of the value and not of the eco-costs. Such EVR comparisons are to be done in the case of innovation of products, services or total systems (example: the choice between a new building or renovation), since the quality is not the same these different solutions. Note that comparison on the bases of eco-costs only are not possible in these cases.

The ‘2-dimensial approach’ for materials, instead of the FU
For LCA benchmarking of materials, it is better to abandon the idea of the FU, and use a “two-dimensional” approach: the eco-burden per kg or per m3 on the y-axis (declared unit) and its main ‘quality performance’ (characterizing function) on the x-axis.
See the Figure below at the left, and, as an example, the so-called Ashby chart at the right.

More information on the FU, the declared unit and the 2 dimensional approach of quality aspects can be found in Section 2.4, 2.5 and 2.6 of the LCA Manual at this website.

In most of the standard software packages, the data on transport are only given in the unit “”. The reason is that all standard LCI databases (like Ecoinvent) only supply data on the basis of tonnes x km. It is, however, good to realise that the LCIs are calculated on the basis of a full load of the truck (or vessel, or plane) and an empty trip back, divided by the maximum load of the transport vehicle. When the density of the freight is relatively low, the truck is full at a maximum volume instead of a maximum weight. In such a case, a correction factor has to be applied, since the energy required for long distance transport is dependant on distance, shape and velocity, and hardly dependant on the weight.

The correction factor must be applied when the density is lower than:
– 160 kg/m3 for airfreight
– 320 kg/m3 for freight in a European standard truck + trailer
– 414 kg/m3 for freight in a standard truck + container (40 ft)
– 843 kg/m3 for freight in a standard 20 ft sea container (take this density for other sea freight as well)

The correction factor to be applied is
“break-even density” / “actual density”
under the condition that this factor is more than 1.

Then, the amount of for the input of Simapro or CES has to be calculated as follows:

“actual tonnes” x “actual km” x “break-even density” / “actual density”

Example: when 24 tons has to be transported by a standard European truck and trailer (24 tons = a full truck load for high densities), and the actual density is 160 kg/m3, the correction factor is 2. This means that the truck must drive two times to transport this freight. The eco-burden per of this transport is 2 times the eco-burden per tkm of high density freight.

See also Section 4.1 of the Practical LCA Guide

Note 1:
The assumption that the average load factor (=occupation) is 50% (the truck is full, but is empty back, on average) is realistic in practice. It is obvious that, from environmental point of view, it must be avoided that the truck is not fully loaded. If this is not the case in a typical situation, a multiplier must be applied in LCA to cope with the partly loaded truck. When, in special cases, the trip of the truck can be combined with other freight on the trip back, the so called “economic allocation” of the eco-burden of round trip of the truck must be applied (which will result in an multiplier less than one for the
Note 2:
There is a fundamental difference between the Idemat calculation of transport by truck, and the calculation of Ecoinvent:
–  Ecoinvent calculations are based on (1) the metric tons gross vehicle weight (GVW) (2) the average load factor per country (3) the EU norms on fuels and emissions
– Idemat calculations are based on (1) the maximum net load of a truck (2) the assumption “100% full on the way to the client, empty on the way back” (3) the fuel consumption as measured in real road tests of commercial Euro 6 trucks.
Therefore, Ecoinvent is more suitable for policy calculations in countries, whereas Idemat is more suitable for calculations on production chains.
Note 3:
The Idemat data on sea freight and air freight are based on typical aircraft and sea vessel data and actual load factors. The Ecoinvent data are based on statistical averages. The Ecoinvent data on transport by sea and by air seem to be a bit outdated.

Sequestration of CO2 in wood and other biobased products (carbon uptake) is a confusing subject in LCA:

The short term carbon cycle versus the long term carbon cycle
Part of the confusion is related to the difference in the so called short term carbon cycle and the long term carbon cycle. The long-term carbon cycle operates over geological timescales, spanning millions of years, and includes the reserves of coal, oil and gas. The short-term carbon cycle operates over much shorter timescales, ranging from days to centuries. The carbon of the short term cycle is called biogenic carbon.
Burning fossil fuels bring carbon from the crust of the earth into our atmosphere, resulting in global warming. It is regarded as a “linear system”: the end-of-life of the CO2 is in the air (although there are carbon sinks of organic matter the ocean that may end in the long term cycle)
Burning biobased carbon brings also carbon to the atmosphere, however this carbon originates from plants that captured the same amount of carbon, so there is a fundamental difference in source and a difference in timespan. It is regarded as a “circular system” in the biosphere. The assumption is that at the end-of-life of the product, the carbon goes back to the atmosphere, either by burning, or by any aerobic bacteriologic process.

The issue of circularity of biogenic carbon
There are three issues in LCA that cause confusion:
Issue (1) the loss of biodiversity in forests, versus the issue of carbon sequestration in forests
Issue (2) the requirements for circularity in the biosphere of biogenic carbon
Issue (3) the time span estimate of the product, i.e. how long does the “biogenic carbon uptake” lasts

Issue (1) The issue of biodiversity is blurred at internet discussions with the issue of carbon sequestration in forests. Keeping forest “untouched” is extreme beneficial for biodiversity, however, anaerobic bacteria might emit methane, which is quite negative in terms of greenhouse gasses (1 kg CH4 is 30 kg CO2 equivalent). This requires well balanced decisions: it does make sense to give biodiversity the priority in forests where biodiversity is high (i.e. topical rain forests and ‘untouched’ boreal forests with high biodiversity), and give carbon sequestration the priority where biodiversity is low (i.e. most of the managed boreal forests, like in Scandinavia).
Degradation of biodiversity is calculated in eco-costs via land-use change (LUC), see the webpage on this issue at this website

Issue (2) requires to keep 3 different systems apart in the discussions:
(a) In tropical forests: modern rotational harvesting, with reduced impact logging
(b) In tropical forests: traditional clear cutting, without replanting.
(c) Boreal forests in the Scandinavian countries: continuous clear cutting of small areas plus replanting.
Only FSC wood guarantees more or less method (a), which is a prerequisite for the assumption of circularity. Other than FSC wood originates unfortunately from method (b), often to create agricultural land, which is far from the circularity requirement. Note: the negative effect of method (b) is handled in the eco-costs system by (i) the land-use change, based on local loss of biodiversity (ii) the average loss of carbon sequestration of 3.45 kg CO2/ kg wood
The boreal forest in in Scandinavian countries, method (c), are continuously increasing their stored carbon in forests. The circularity of this wood is therefore guaranteed (there are more trees planted than harvested). It is a widespread misunderstanding that the period of regrowth of trees must be taken into account: from systems point of view, there is a condition of steady state i.e. for one specific area there might be a specific age of trees, but overall the ages of the trees are equally spread over the country, a situation that does not change much over time, so there is no need for complex calculation where time is taken into account.
Remark on the Idemat LCI names:
type (a) is called ‘natural forest‘ behind the name of the wood specie,
type (b) is called ‘FSC ‘behind the name of the wood specie, and
type (c) does have no additional qualification behind the name of wood specie.

Issue (3) An arbitrary choice has been made in the LCA community: when the life span of a product is shorter than 100 years, the biogenic carbon belongs to the short cycle, and is therefore regarded as circular (the choice of 100 years is related to the predominant choice of the 100 years GWP midpoint tables). In this way complex calculations on dynamic systems, and the theory on the ‘delayed pulse’ are avoided. PEF follows this simplification as well, but proposes 300 years, instead of 100 years, as cut-off point. The eco-costs / Idemat system proposes 100 years (i.e. wooden beams in buildings are assumed to be there ‘for ever’): in such a case 1.72 kg CO2 per kg dry wood, or 1.51 kg CO2 per kg wood MC 12% should be added for carbon sequestration.
Note: a detailed analysis on the mass balance for wood and bamboo is provided in (Vogtlander, et al 2014). See also the webpage Eco-costs calculations on wood

Two ways to deal with the circularity
In LCA there are two ways to calculate the biogenic CO2 cycle (see Figure at the left):
(A) Do not count biogenic carbon (e.g. biogenic CO2 = 0), since the short life biogenic CO2 is circular (the biogenic CO2 stays within the boundary limit of your calculation system, and all uptake of biogenic carbon will be released at the end-of-life sooner or later).
(B) Carbon uptake at the moment of harvesting is counted, combined with release of the carbon at the end-of-life that is counted as well. This is the case where the atmosphere is not included in the product system (the biogenic carbon enters the system at the cradle, and leaves at the end-of-life)

The effect on your calculation is depicted in the 3 Figures below (from CEFIC position paper 2022):

The first figure depicts the situation for CO2 from fossil fuels. The second figure depicts calculation (A) for biogenic carbon. The third figure depicts calculation (B), which shows a negative carbon score for e.g. wood or bioplastics.
It is clear that companies like to have a negative carbon score for cradle-to-gate in their marketing (“we are a carbon negative company”). Scientist, however, regard this as greenwashing (misleading consumers) since the score for the total LCA (cradle-to-grave) is positive. So far, PEF rejected the calculation (B). Idemat adheres to the scientific point of view.

Some history on the issue.
In November 2009 It was decided by Ecoinvent to follow the IPCC in their decision in 2006 to apply the calculation system (A) “biogenic CO2 is not counted in LCA”
In the ILCD manual on LCA of 2010, the same approach is followed.
In the EN15804 (the norm for EPDs) allows calculation method (A); carbon uptake may be reported just as as additional information, however, not as an integral part of the LCA calculation.
PEF did follow the EN 15804 approach, for products with a life span shorter than 300 years
IDEMAT follows calculation method (A).  The carbon uptake might be reported separately from the LCA calculation (for wood the uptake is 1.53 – 1.83 kg CO2 per kg dry wood) for products that have a shorter life span than 100 years. Carbon sequestration must be included in LCA for products that last longer then 100 years

Consequences for combustion with heat recovery.
The consequences of “biogenic CO2 is not counted in LCA” for the end-of-life calculations on “combustion with heat recovery” is that the end-of-life scores for wood and biobased products become negative. See FAQ 2.4. This is the basic idea of “avoided fossil fuels”: at the end-of-life heat is recycled with a positive effect (a ‘credit’) on the environment (compared to doing nothing), and is in line with ISO14044 section
Note. Since this consequence is highly related with the issue of circularity of biogenic carbon (abovementioned issue (1) and issue (2)), the EU has quite strict rules for the use of wood pellets in power plants.  See DIRECTIVE (EU) 2018/2001 on the use of energy from renewable sources .

The basic approach of ISO 14044
Waste that can be burned is dealt with in LCA by ‘system expansion’. The basic idea is to add an extra step to the chain , where the waste is burned, either in a electrical power plant or in a municipal waste incinerator. To calculate the gross heat, the Lower Heating Value of the waste has to be applied (ISO 14044, section, combustion with heat recovery). This is the philosophy of the “avoided fossil fuels”: it is better to burn the waste with heat recovery, than doing nothing (landfill). For a further explanation see Section 5.2 of the Practical Guide to LCA.
In the Idemat system, the following efficiencies have been applied (the best practice in Western Europe):
– 95% to convert heat input to heat output.
– 55% efficiency in a municipal waste incinerator (for electricity 55% x 40% = 22%), see report “Debunking Efficient Recovery: The Performance of EU Incineration Facilities”, 2023

Some data
The moisture content (MC) in wood must be evaporated, leading to the following net LHV values:
– 20 MW per kg dry wood (this is an average for softwood, the LHV for hardwood is approx. 10% higher)
– 17,3 MW per kg wood MC 12%, wood in houses (= 0,88 x 20 – 0,12 x 2,25 MW per kg)
– 8,9 MW per kg wood MC 50%, fresh wood (=0,5 x 20 – 0,5 x 2.25 MW per kg)
For other moisture contents, the LHV formula (MW/kg) is: ‘weight per kg’ x (1 – ‘moisture comtent’) x 20 – ‘weight per kg’ x ‘moisture content’ x 2,256

Since wood is a natural product, the biogenic CO2 (and SO2) emissions of combustion are not counted in the eco-costs system (see FAQ 2.3): these emissions are part of a closed loop when the wood stems from plantations (which is the case for European wood types). In Idemat, NO2 emissions are added (since they come from the burners in the system). A norm of 1.27 gram per kg wood is applied.

Consequences for oil based plastics
For combustion of plastics, the situation is basically the same. The difference with wood is that many plastics are based on fossil fuels. Therefore the eco-costs of CO2 must be counted. The result is that the positive effect of the generation of electricity (or heat) is counterbalanced by the CO2 emissions. The net result for electrical power plants is slightly positive for some plastics, but negative for many others. See Idemat data. For municipal waste incineration, the result is always negative, because of the lower efficiency. So burning plastics is a municipal waste incinerator is not a good solution for the environment: plastics should be recycled.
This leads to a quite controversial practice in LCA: how to calculate “avoiding combustion of fossil plastics by recycling”. The reasoning is that recycling gets an extra credit for recycling since the waste is not combusted. The first issue is, however, how to calculate recycling in e.g. the USA, where most of the plastic is landfilled: do we have there no credit (since there is no CO2 emission in landfill)? The second issue is more fundamental, and is related to system modelling: It is a bit like calculating the eco-burden of transport by bicycle, and then adding a credit ‘because the transport is not by car’, which is obviously nonsense It is the wrong use of ‘system expansion’ (ref. ISO 14044 Section Step 1) for such a case. In the example of ‘system expansion’ for heat, the heat and/or electricity could have been used in the production system itself (the expansion could have been part of the system itself). That is not the case for the bike (avoiding a car) nor the case of the waste recycling (avoiding combustion): both situations are an ‘either or’ situation instead of an ‘in addition to’ which is required for normal system expansion that is in compliance with ISO14044 section LCA benchmarking should not be confused with system expansion, see FAQ

Consequences for bio- based plastics
When plastics are made from renewable resources (‘bio-plastics’), combustion is a good option (since the CO2 is not counted, like wood).
Note that combustion is a better solution than uncontrolled bio-degrading, since uncontrolled bio-degrading has the risk of CH4 emissions (a greenhouse gas, 30 times stronger than CO2). There are two types of controlled bio-degrading:
a. Controlled bio-degrading by anaerobic bacteria in a closed storage tank, where the CH4 is collected and burned. For small rural communities in the 3rd world, this seems to be a good local solution to generate methane for cooking. In the Western world it seems to be that it is not a good solution, since the overall eco-efficiency is lower than combustion in an electrical power plant.
b. Controlled bio-degrading by aerobic bacteria in a closed building, where the CH4 emissions are minimized and captured. This method is applied in Western Europe (the Netherlands, UK, Germany, etc.) for municipal waste. In countries like the Netherlands, there is more compost production than the local market can absorb, so there is a tendency to limit compost production and use the biomass for combustion.

Note 1.
The Ecoinvent database in combination with Recipe has the characteristics that the benefit of combustion of wood cannot be taken at End of Life. The debate is that this would result in double counting, since biomass is already taken into account at the “market mix” of electricity. From macro-ecologic point of view this is right. However, the issue is that LCA is normally applied to micro-ecologic issues: when a designer decides on wood since it can be burned at the EoL, it is a good decision as such, regardless of the fact what happens on average in Europe. It is an issue of applying marginal instead of integral mass-balances.
The eco-costs system is meant to be for designers, purchasers, business people and consumers who have to take their marginal decisions. Therefore, the eco-costs system incorporates the positive effect of combustion of wood at the EoL stage, being the general approach of practitioners for LCAs of products.

Note 2.
An important issue for the far future is that the credit of ‘combustion with heat recovery’ will lessen when green hydrogen will become the main source of industrial heat (natural gas is now the main source of industrial heat), since the credit is related to the “avoided heat source”.

Idemat results compared to Ecoinvent (EI) results

Stets of LCA data are built for specific type of purposes (type of users), like indicator systems are (see FAQ 3.2 for indicator systems). Although the differences in indicator systems are bigger than in LCA datasets, LCA datasets have different characteristics for different user groups. This means in LCA benchmarking that mixing of datasets in one calculation must be done with great care. As an example: for plastics, the EI data are 10% – 30% higher than Idemat (on carbon footprint and eco-costs)
There a 6 reasons that calculation results in EI are higher than in Idemat (in order of importance):
a. Much of the LCI data in EI are based on old LCIs (or extrapolations of very old datasets), in contrast to Idemat scans the internet on recent publications
b. For electricity, EI is lagging behind
c. For transport the EI data are based on statistical data, in contrast to Idemat that applies measured data of modern trucks and vessels
d. EI includes ‘infrastructure’ (e.g. the steel in the chemical production plants)
e. EI does not have a cut-off point, where Idemat ignores subsystems with less than 1 or 2%
f. EI tends to apply the ‘cautionary principle’ by applying worst case scenarios

It is obvious that, because of the many measures to decrease carbon emissions in the recent past, point a. and b. lead to a quite serious overestimation: it can almost explain all differences for plastics. EI as well as Idemat use PlasticsEurope as source for their LCIs. Since PlasticEurope is frequently updating their data, the slow renewal by EI is causing quite significant differences.
With regard to outdated data on electricity see this website  and the paper [Olindo et al 2021]

The issue in point c is that EI is based on quite old statistical data in the EU (HABEFA v3.1) on groups of transport vehicles , in combination with the maximum emissions of EURO 6, whereas Idemat applies measured data from road tests of standard modern trucks in the EU.
Idemat is based on the common practice in long haul transport: 50% full load (100% to client, empty back). The life span in Idemat is 1000.000 km (common in the transport business), instead of 540.000 km (!) in EI. In combination with the lower fuel consumption in Idemat, the result is that EI has more than 30% higher carbon footprint and more than 45% higher eco-costs.

Idemat is based on actual data of the ‘Emma Maersk’ containership. EI seems to base the data on a ship that is 5 times smaller, and fuel consumption before the ‘slow steaming’ practices, and new ship designs to reduce fuel consumption. The difference is a factor 2 in carbon footprint, and even a factor 5 in eco-costs, because of old sulfur dioxide emissions in EI.

An important difference between EI and Idemat, point d, is that EI includes ‘infrastructure’ (e.g. the steel in chemical production plants. This accounts for 2% – 4% extra ecoburden.

Point e results in a difference of approximately 2 %

Point f results mainly in applying ‘safe side’ assumptions. An example is that EI applies quite often excessive SO2 emissions, assuming the maximum allowable sulfur in oil based fuels, but ignoring the additional requirements in local environmental nuisance requirements. Another example is the assumption that all potential pollutants in coal that are burned in coal fired power plants will enter the environment (via the chimney), whereas all modern coal fired power plants have exhaust filters.
Another issue is the fact that EI does not count the combustion with heat recovery (ISO 14044, section4.3.3.1.), since they claim that this would cause double counting. This is right for country wide calculations, but not true for marginal calculations on product innovation. See FAQ 2.4 Note 1.

1. when you make ex post LCA calculations, you might prefer the Ecoinvent dataset, since it follows the ‘precautional principle’ and you are ‘safe side’.
2. when you make ex ante calculations on innovations of products and services, you run the risk with de Ecoinvent dataset that you take the wrong decisions since you apply outdated data.

Note 1
Some people like to exaggerate LCA related issues. However, the policy of overestimation of LCA results is a bit dangerous, since that may lead to the wrong decisions, and often does not help much in convincing people.
Note 2.
More on the specific calculation rules of Idemat can be found at this website.

Structuring recycling and end-of-life in LCA
The basic difference of “linear” systems and “circular” systems is depicted in the figure at the left below.
The LCA of a linear system starts with the cradle (mining of ore, or production of oil), and ends with the stockpile of sorted waste materials at the end-of-life, which is the “cut-off point” in the Idemat calculation (as it is in EN 15804). There is no “carry-over” to the next product life cycle.
The LCA of a circular system starts with the stockpile of sorted waste materials, which are to be recycled (eco-costs= zero at this starting point) into a new product. The end of the cycle is the stockpile of sorted waste, which is the cut-off point.
Example: when textiles are made from recycled PET-bottles, the input for the recycling process is considered ‘burden-free’ (because all of the impact associated with the production of the bottles is allocated to the first use of those bottles).

It is important to notice that, in manufacturing practice, there is nearly always a combination of virgin and recycled materials at the input. So the calculations with 100 ‘recycling credit’ (100% ‘closed loop’) are wishful thinking in most cases. In LCA it is better to calculate with the real mass flows of virgin and recycled materials  at the input (referring to the so-called ‘recycled content’ of the product).

The figure at the right depicts the same basic idea, but gives all recycling and end-of-life options. The numbers in this figure relate to the “Delft Order of Preferences”, a list of the 10 major systems for End of Life, used for structured and systemized analyses of (combinations of) design options (Vogtlander et al, 2002):
1. Extending of the product life
2. Object renovation
3. Re-use of components
4. Re-use of materials
5. Useful application of waste materials (compost, granulated stone and concrete, slag, etc.)
6. Immobilization with useful appliances
7. Immobilization without useful appliances
8. Incineration with energy recovery
9. Incineration without energy recovery
10 Land fill.

It is important to realize that for big, modular objects (like buildings), there is not “one system for End of Life” but in reality there is always a combination of systems.
Two basic rules for allocation in the eco-costs model are (see figure at the right):
– eco-costs of all activities marked with ‘b’ are allocated to the End of Life stage of a product (transportation included).
– eco-costs of all activities in the block marked with ‘a’ are allocated to the material use of the new product (so are allocated to the beginning of the product chain).
In line with the aforementioned allocation strategy, the ‘bonus’ to use recycled materials is taken at the beginning of the product chain, where the new product is created. Material depletion is caused here when ‘virgin’ materials are applied, material depletion is avoided when recycled materials are applied.
The benefit of recycling options must always be calculated by benchmarking of (two or more) total recycling-production loops, starting at the stockpiles of materials that are to be recycled. Other attempts to calculate the benefit of recycling are doomed to fail. Take care of double counting: don’t apply recycling credits.

The recycling credit
Most of the thermoplastics can be recycled. This can be dealt with by “system expansion” in the End of Life stage, like combustion of waste, see FAQ 2.4. The advantage of recycling plastics is that it will replace the “virgin” plastics, so overall less plastic will be made out of fossil oil.
In the eco-costs system we call that the “recycling credit” = (eco-costs of recycled plastics) – (eco-costs of virgin plastics). These eco-costs are negative (having a positive effect of the total eco-costs of the chain). See for more information Section 5.2 of  a Practical guide to LCA.
A list of the eco-costs of recycling credit of plastics is given in the Idemat excel files, however, it is better to refrain from the recycling credit in your calculations: take the benefit of recycling at the beginning of the production chain, by applying the data of recycled plastics in Idemat (instead of  virgin plastics). This allows for applying the real recycled/virgin mix in your calculation. See FAQ 2.6. Note that double counting (taking recycled plastics at the input, plus applying the credit) is not allowed.

Two types of recycling
There are two types of recycling:
(a) mechanical recycling, i.e downcycling, resulting in e.g. rPET, rPE, rPP, rPVC
(b) chemical recycling, i.e. upcycling, resulting in virgin quality
Mechanical recycling without much loss of quality is only possible when a plastic is not contaminated with another type of plastic and when the material has no color. Mechanical recycling is downcycling: the quality is degraded at every recycling loop. Upcycling is possible for the full range of plastics by “pyrolysis”, however, this solution is energy intensive and expensive. Upcycling data in Idemat are based on pyrolysis, except from upcycling of PET (which is done by the process of Ioniqa).

Note 1. Recycling of plastics can only be done efficiently in big volumes. Therefore, a “closed loop system”, where the plastics are used for the same product (don’t enter the market) is not a realistic option for the vast majority of products. Only mechanical recycling of bottles is done in closed loop, to avoid quality degradation by contamination.
Note 2. Idemat does not have recycling credit tables for mechanical recycling, since mechanical recycling results always in quality degradation.

Downcycling in LCA
There is an on-going debate on how to deal with such examples of downcycling in LCA, partly because of the interests of the industry, partly because of the challenge to model it in science. This is the field of ‘attributional modelling’, where the debate is focused on economic allocation methods down the recycling cascade, see for details the ILCD Handbook of  Life Cycle Assessment – Detailed Guidance, Annex C. In this LCA handbook, a practical approach is proposed, following the rule in ISO 14044 that output of combustible material may be transformed into an energy output. In the case of paper and paper products it does make sense to take the electricity output of a municipal waste incinerator as a norm.
Such a chain is shown in the figure below.

The waste paper products are depicted here as part of the total paper chain. Recycling rates (2022) are: 2.5x in EU, 2.1x in USA, 3.8x in NL(ref. Milieu Centraal).
The waste paper products are ‘additional applications’ in the paper chain. It does make sense to give:
(a) this additional application no eco-burden of its material source (e.g. apply the cut-off at the stockpile of waste, like it is done in EN 15804),
(b) allocate 1/3 of the credits for End of Life (incineration) to the waste paper when the waste paper is 3x recycled. The eco-burden of such a secondary product is only its transport, processing, use, waste processing, and part of the EoL credit.

The same principle may be applied to other examples of real downcycling such as:
•mechanical recycling (re-melting) of clean and pure plastics (e.g. PET)
•street furniture pressed from different kind of coloured plastics
•hardboard plates made from old, discarded, wooden planks
•consumer products directly made from waste, like bags and garments made ofdiscarded clothing
•aggregate from concrete

Note 1. In such an approach, the grade (quality) of the waste – not to be confused with the grade of the secondary (recycled) material – is not relevant for the eco-costs of the waste, since the eco-costs of waste to be recycled is 0, regardless of its quality, see the FAQ 2.6 (there is no “carry over” from the first life to the second).
Note 2. The actual recycling rate of a product (e.g. 3x) is a result of customer behavior. It has nothing to do with the maximum achievable recyclability in a laboratory of a clean paper (approx 25x, according Univ of Gratz), since the recycling rate is a result of human behavior. The maximum recyclability of paper for household consumer waste is approx 4x ,because of contamination problems with e.g. fats. For office waste, recyclability can reach 7x since the contamination (mainly ink) is less . In practice, office waste and household waste are mixed at the recycling plant to get the required quality of the end-product.
Note 3. Recycling rates in countries are hard to measure, mainly because of unknown imports and exports (e,g, packaging of imported goods from the far east), and unknown “diffusion” (e.g. toilet paper in sewers). So data can easily be manipulated by simplification of the mass balances.

Material residence time
The situation for metals seems on the first sight similar to the situation of plastics (see FAQ 2.6).
However, there is a complicating factor, especially for metals, since the lifespan of metal products is rather long (many years). Therefor the “residence time” of materials in the use phase of system must be taken into account.
The figure below depicts a typical case for stainless steel.

The issue is that the demand of metals has been growing for the last decades, and is expected to grow further. Take the example of stainless steel of the figure below:
– the average residence time of the steel in the use phase is approx. 20 years
– nearly 100% of the stainless steel is being recycled (since it is an expensive material)
– however, 100% of the production of stainless steel 20 years ago, is about 40% of the current demand

It is therefore far from realistic to state that “100% will be recycled in future” in our calculation. We must take only the eco-costs of recycled stainless steel as it is used in our current production. hence the use of the “recycling credit” in LCA is a fporm of wishful thinking.
On average, it is a far more realistic approach to take the “market mix” (40% recycled, 60% virgin), calculate the eco-costs of that mix, and take that as input of the production system

There is, however, a logic exception on the approach to take the market mix: in cases where the actual amount of virgin and recycled is known. The actual system mix of virgin and recycled materials for production has to be applied then.
Manufacturers strive for a high recycled content:
(a) when the material is expensive and recycling is relatively easy, or
(b) when a manufacturer tries to gain a competitive edge in the market with a green product.

Recycling indicators in statistics
Because of the effect of residence time that is described above, there are various recycling indicators:
(a) EOL-RIR: end of life Recycling Input Rate – the fraction of secondary material in the total material input
to the production system, i.e. the recycled content of a product. It measures the proportion of total material available
to manufacturers that comes from recycling of end-of-life products.
(b) EOL-RR: end of life Recycling Rate – the the share of a material in waste flows that is actually recycled. It provides information about the performance of the collection and recycling to recover materials at end-of-life and it is thus useful from a recyclers’ perspective

Most of the data on recycling rates are EOL-RR, but take care: in LCA we need to apply the EOL-RIR (see the figure above).

Note that recycling data are hard to calculate because of import and export of countries, because of “diffusion” (materials that disappear) and because of the residence time (amount that is in use in our society). It is extremely difficult to make correct mass balances.

Economic allocation is preferred (exception: mass based allocation for mining of ‘companion metals’ ), to prevent greenwashing in product LCAs.
The issue is simple:
Many products have by-products (or waste) with a small positive market price, but a high volume. In economic allocation these type of by-products (waste) do play a negligible role. However, in mass based allocation, these mass flows can be considerable, so that a big portion of the eco-costs is allocated to these by-products (or waste), lowering the eco-costs of the main product. It is no doubt that this supports greenwashing op products.

The following advise is given on “strategies to find prices of products with missing or distorted markets” (Table from Handbook on Life Cycle Assessment, Guinée (editor), 2002):

Problem Solution
1. Market prices not known Look for public sources, preferably FOB (Free On Board) prices
2. Fluctuating prices Use three-year averages, or use prices at futures market
3. Inflation No problem, as long as the same base year is used in each process
4. Trends in real prices No problem, as long as the same base year is used in each process
5. Different currencies in different processes No problem, as long as the same currency is used in each process
6. Locally diverging prices Choose prices at relevant process locations or calculate averages for the relevant region
7. Market prices available only further downstream Use gross sales value method
8. Partially missing prices Construct prices from costs and known prices
9. Economically based market distortions (e.g., Monopolies) Use actual market prices, correct in very exceptional cases only
10. Regulations-based market distortions Accept prices as they are, use value or cost of close alternative for missing market prices
11. Tax-like financing of activity (e.g., Sewer systems) Treat as ‘missing market, public provision’
12. Taxes and subsidies on products Use the price the seller actually receives
13. Taxes and subsidies on activities Do not correct for taxes and subsidies on activities.
14. In-firm prices not known Use gross sales value method
15. Missing markets with public provision Construct prices based on costs
16. Developing markets for recycling products Use current prices of similar products to specify the price of future recycled products
17. Markets not yet in existence Use expected future market prices

Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3 emissions are categories used to classify and account for gas emissions in the context of corporate or organizational CSRD (corporate sustainability reporting directive of the EU) reporting. These categories help organizations understand and manage their environmental impact. These three scopes, have originally been defined by the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, provide a comprehensive framework for organizations to assess their total greenhouse gas emissions. See the webpage on the GHG Protocol
In the CSRD these categories are used for other emissions and materials scarcity as well.

In LCA, the same categories are used, although the wording is different. The figure below depicts the approach of EN15804 (defining the LCAs for EPDs in the building industry).

Scope 1 are the emissions of the so-called foreground system. It are “direct emissions” from the process that is under study, and that is under direct management of the company that produces the product under study. Data of eco-costs of emissions (and resource depletion) can be found in Idemat table Ecocosts2024_V1-0_midpoint_tables.xlsx .
Scope 2 are the indirect emissions of energy supply (electricity and heat), which can be found in Idemat 2024-V1-0.xlsx line numbers B.030 – B.050.
Scope 3 are the material supplies to the foreground processes. The cradle-to-gate emissions of these so-called background systems are calculated by LCA and are given in Idemat 2024-v1-0.xlsx line numbers A.010 – A.160.

The Mass Balance Approach in LCA is a greenwashing trick, invented by the European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC), widely applied by the chemical industry (BASF, Shell, etc.) and heavily marketed (creating ISOs, certification schemes, lobby at EU and governments, many working groups for norms, and praised by the Allen McArthur Foundation). It is claimed that it supports the introduction of sustainable production systems, but take care: it is misleading to customers (so it is greenwashing). And it is not suitable for LCA, since it is an administrative system only.
The issue is that when you replace a small proportion of fossil oil by bio-based oil (or oil from pyrolysis +hydrotreating of plastic waste) at the beginning of an existing production chain, you are allowed to sell the same quantity as a ‘sustainable’ product to your client, regardless of the fact that the bio-based oil is heavily diluted. Good for marketing and good for finance, since no extra investment needed to keep the product separate from the fossil oil.
Plastic Europe give a fair description in “Mass balance approach to accelerate the use of renewable feedstocks in chemical processes”:
However, as the renewable feedstock is processed together with non-renewable feedstock, it might not be physically traceable throughout the production processes……… dispersion and (initial) volumetric dilution effects of such multi-step production processes on the original renewable feedstock, the final products are not bio-based according to the CEN/TC 411 “bio-based products” definition 1. Products under this view paper cannot therefore be called “bio-based”. The actual carbon molecules in the chosen chemical/plastic may not be bio-based, but through a third-party certificate………certain amounts of chemicals/plastics can be verified. This view paper serves to gain acceptance and credibility of this mass balance approach to the market………The product claims shall be verifiable and certified. These products are Renewable Attributed Products and must not be called “bio-based products

It is clear the the physical relationship which is key to LCA is not fulfilled.
When in LCA, for example, the input is 90% fossil, 10% bio (or recycled), this ratio is to be reflected in all products and by-products of the total production system. Allocation of all the ‘bio’ to 10% of the output is not allowed in ISO 14044. As described in FAQ 2.6 and 2.9.
See also MBA for EPDs

The Idemat data are valid for offshore regions with windclass 6 or 7 (at 80m height) with a ‘capacity factor’ of 0.40 -0.60.
Idemat took  a case study in Texas: 5 MW, capacity factor 0.47, shallow water, 1 km cable on average, life span 20 years.

Reference: [Jesuina Chipindula , Venkata Sai Vamsi Botlaguduru , Hongbo Du , Raghava Rao Kommalapati and Ziaul Huque (A&M University). Life Cycle Environmental Impact of Onshore and Offshore Wind Farms in Texas. Sustainability 2018, 10, 2022; doi:10.3390/su10062022]
Reference for the weight of the Neodymium magnet:

Windspeed map (for other locations)
Global maps for 80 m (as well as 10 m) are given at

Need for newer LCAs
An issue is that the 5 MW Texas example is too small for modern offshore windmills. They are 14 MW and seem to have 25% higher cost efficiency (25% eco-costs efficiency as well?), based on public data on the Borssele offshore windfarm in the Netherlands. On the other hand, new locations have often longer power cables to the shore.

For onshore windmills, the capacity factor is assumed to be 0.20 -0.40 (0.20 is a normal design criterion for onshore windmills in areas with windclass 3).
In practice, windmills onshore are a smaller than offshore (max 5 – 7 MW), have less construction weight, however, have less wind, so a smaller capacity factor. On average, they have a bit lower eco-costs per kWh.
Ecoinvent gives approximately the same eco-costs for offshore and onshore, but these data are very outdated (1 – 3 MW), extrapolated from a study in 2001.

So further analysis is needed, using reference:
(LCA still to be made in Idemat)

For costs, see
For Levelized Costs of Electricity, as well as construction costs, derived from a world wide study on projects, see


Assumptions of the eco-costs calculation
When we assume that the PV panels are located in the middle of Germany, the irradiation is approximately 1100 kWh/m2 per year. In practice: 1 kWp, is about 0.85 MWh per year, lifespan 30 years.
The eco-costs per kWp is given in [D. Yang at al. Life-cycle assessment of China’s multi-crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules considering international tradeJournal of Cleaner Production 94 (2015) 35-45 (Scenario 2 and 3: data per kWp)]

The calculation results in:

eco-costs of electricity from PV panels (euro/kWh) = 0.0057 x 1100/(annual local irradiation)

in which the annual local irradiation is expressed in kWh/m2
The same applies to the carbon Footprint, the CED and Recipe Points.

Data on local irradiation are available in maps:
There are detailed maps of irradiation on tilted panels for each country within the EU, see .
The annual irradiation in the Netherlands ranges from 1100 (kWh/m2) in the South – West of the country to 1000 (kWh/m2) in the North – East. see
A good overview of all countries around the globe is given for horizontal irradiation at

Note. For the Netherlands, you can calculate your own PV system by

Regionality in LCA

For a decade, there is a wish to make generic LCA data ‘regional’.
For the biosphere this is essential: agriculture is strongly influenced by local conditions. But it is also important for the technosphere.

Although most technical processes are basically the same all over the world, there are two important issues on a global scale:
a. the carbon content of electricity (kgCO2e/MJ), that varies highly over countries and regions, and even locally (e.g. PV cells on the roof)
b. transport distances.


In Idemat 2024, an industrial average has been taken for 2022 (1/3 EU, 1/3 USA, 1/3 China), with a carbon content of 0.137 kgCO2/MJ (EU 0.089, USA 0.146, China 0.175).
The global carbon content varies from 0.004 (Norway) to 0.27 (Wyoming), 0.27 (Anhui), 0.29 (Bihar), see the Idemat tables. So there is a strong reason for regional corrections in LCA.
Since it is not very practical to make the full matrix of 2200 LCIs and 390 lines of electricity, the approach has been chosen to calculate a correction:

Carbon footprint Regional LCA = Carbon footprint Idemat LCA – [A x (B – C)]

A = electricity in LCI (MJ)
B = carbon content in “Electricity General Industry” (kgCO2e/MJ)
C = carbon content in Regional or Local Electricity   (kgCO2e/MJ)

A comes from the Table  Idemat embedded Electricity excel
B comes from Idemat table line B.040.01.101
C comes from Idemat table line B.042.01.101 through B.046.08.151

In the case of local renewable energy (at the production plant) C comes from e.g. the line for PV cells: B.030.01.107

It is obvious that the same applies to the calculation of eco-costs

Note 1: In practice, this regional correction is  the correction for the last process step (line group D) of the product chain (‘converting’), since the location of this last process step is known (the gate where the transport starts to the distribution warehouse). Most of Group D processes are governed by the use of electricity.
Note 2: Many of the LCIs in line group A have either a small use of electricity, and/or the use of electricity is not known, so they are not given in the table of the embedded electricity.


(1) Idemat LCIs for materials (line group A) are basically from cradle-to-gate, i.e. the gate of the factory.
(2) Calculations are from a gate in Europe, unless stated otherwise in the title of the LCA. Further transport has to be added from this gate. When you do not know your specific gate in Europe, assume Rotterdam.
(3) The transport from the gate of the raw material (line group A) to the converting plant (line group D) should be added, however, this transport distance is often not known. When you want to be safe side, add 1000 km by truck (0.022 €/kg), or 15.000 km by sea (0.021 €/km).
Note that these eco-costs are relative small to the cradle-to-gate scores of plastics (PVC 0.7, PE 1.1, PA66 1.6 €/kg), so might be neglected.
(4) Products with low eco-costs per kg (e.g. less than 0.1 €/kg), like wood and paper, need extra attention with regard to transport. Kraft paper is assumed to come from Swedish of Finnish forests and has the gate in Rotterdam, testliner has the gate at the production location.
(5) For all wood species, the gate in Idemat is Rotterdam, so the eco-burden of transport from the forest to Rotterdam is included in the Idemat data.

(6) For other continents than Europe, transport has to be determined for each specific case: either by extra transport from Rotterdam, or by replacing the transport to Rotterdam with another transport leg
(7) For plastics, extra transport can be neglected, see (3)
(8) For wood and for kraft paper, the transport from the forest to Rotterdam has to be replaced by a specific route

3. FAQs on EVR:

The philosophy behind the EVR theory (for students who are interested)
Every environmental theory has a philosophy (‘beliefs’, ‘paradigms’, and ‘ideologies’) behind it.
The cause-effect relationships in our society are far from simple. Observations in the field of sustainable developments (in the past and in the future) are always subjective, and influenced by the underlying cultural paradigm.  A way to describe this issue, is the theory on the ‘Sustainability Paradigms’ (derived from the ‘Cultural Theory of Risk’) of ‘Egalitarians’, ‘Hierarchists’, and ‘Individualists’. See for details Appendix X of the book Eco-efficient Value Creation, downloadable at this website.
The theory of the EVR is built on a combination of the paradigms of Hierarchists and Individualists, being the European Culture of free market economy with governmental interventions to correct for market failures and to protect ‘common goods’ by democracy (see the Three Stakeholders  Model , Fig. 1.5, at this website).

Maarten Boudry, philosopher at the University of Gent, developed a philosophy that is quite similar, and amazingly straight forward. His lecture is, unfortunately, in the Dutch language (but AI might soon be capable to  provide simultaneous translation).
Note. More of this critical thinker can be found at his website (you may agree or disagree with his point of view, but his ideas are certainly interesting).

His logic is simple, but you might not agree with everything what he is saying in his lecture (you might have another cultural paradigm), but think about it. The only way to Zero CO2 emission is technical innovation, in combination with the political Willingness to Pay for it (and, of course, with the social debate on “who must pay for it”).
At the end of his lecture, he might reach his conclusions a bit too fast: the current technology of nuclear power is not yet suitable for a real sustainable solution: it is not yet inherently safe enough (think e.g. about Putin who threatened to cut-off the electrical power for cooling of Ukrainian power plants), and it is not yet suitable to react to the high fluctuations in the demand of electricity, caused by wind and solar power. But this is a reason for further, urgent, research (e.g. on the Molten Salt Rector and Nuclear Fusion).

And there is the other issue of materials scarcity. That is the reason that scarcity plays a dominant role, together with CO2, in the eco-costs model.
The model of the EVR deals with the socio-economic issues, which is indispensable for the optimization of successful innovations.
The essence of the EVR is that innovation is not only about “techno-fixes” of eco-burden, but that innovation is also about preferences of buyers (“value”): people must be seduced to spend their money on green products, because they prefer that products on the basis of functionality, performance , fun, and quality.
This is explained in the following FAQ (FAQ 3.2)

The EVR is based on alternatives in governmental policies
All examples on this website are on product level, i.e. the website describes what to do with innovation of products and services.
However, the first ideas to make analyses by means of (marginal) prevention costs were developed by environmental economists (the so called input-output tables for macro-economic analyses). The Delft University of Technology combined these ideas later with the LCA method, and made the EVR concept operational for designers.
So applications on governmental level are older than applications on product level. Obviously, the method of input-output tables and the method of EVR still influence each other.
A example is the EIPRO study of the European Commission (EIPRO = environmental impact of products). Data from this study have been combined with the EVR system, resulting in Fig. 7.13.

Fig. 7.13. Macro-economic consequences of expenditures of all consumers in the EU25: how to reduce eco-costs?

This figure depicts the EVR at the level of the EU25 (25 countries of the European Union):

X-axis: the cumulative expenditures of all products and services of all citizens (categorised in 100 different types)
Y-axis: the EVR (= the ecocosts per euro ‘real money’) of the 100 types of expenditures

The area underneath the curve is proportional to the total eco-costs of the EU25.

Basically there are two strategies to reduce the area under the curve:
– ask industry to reduce the eco-costs of their products (this will shift the curve downward)
– try to reduce expenditures of consumers in high end of the curve, and let them spend this money at the low end of the curve (this will shift the middle part of the curve to the right)

Arnos Scheepens has written his doctorate thesis on the integration of product system innovation and governmental policies, applying the EVR model. See his doctorate thesis at this website.
Note. His paper on sustainable water tourism is already cited in more than 400 (!) scientific papers.

Time-dependent aspects in LCA and EVR
The use-phase and the end-of-life in LCA (and EVR) is about the future, so the question is how to include time-dependent aspects in the calculations. However, the dimension of time in future in LCA is extreme complex (Niels Bohr said, “it is very difficult to predict – especially the future.”). In his doctorate thesis, Vogtlander, page 24, decided  to calculate eco-costs on the basis of “what if we already had taken the measures now”, to avoid the inherent uncertainties of time-dependent calculations in the future (as it is done for the so called MAC curves). In the following text 5 issues are dealt with: (A) the “delayed pulse” in LCA, (B) price inflation (C) the effect of future abatement measures (D) consequential LCA (E) financial discounting with “real interest”

A. The delayed pulse
How to deal with time delay (“the delayed pulse”) of emissions and “discounting” of future emissions, has been a debate in the early years of the development op LCA (the period 1980 – 2005).
One of the first decisions in the LCA community (the SETAC organization) was that discounting should not be applied to LCA, i.e LCA typically treats all impacts equivalently, irrespective of their timing (“delaying of emissions into the future should not be encouraged by the calculation procedure”). However, as a consequence of the the decision of the time horizon of 100 years in the system to calculate the midpoint table of CO2e emissions (Kyoto Protocol, 1997), the issue of the “delayed pulse” was back in the discussion during the development of the LCA Handbook of the ILCD (2010): should an emission that that occurs n years after the start of the product life be counted a (1 – n/100) times that emission? This issue is important in calculations on carbon sequestration in wood, where the period of growth of the tree plays an important factor, but the application of the theory of the delayed pulse might be regarded as an aberration in science, see [Vogtlander et al 2014].
Again, the general consensus was and is not to apply such a correction, since an emission (or carbon uptake) after n years should be regarded as severe as an emission at the start of the use phase.

B. Price inflation in monetized LCA indicator systems like eco-costs
This issue is dealt with in FAC 1.4: in general there is no need for any inflation correction of the prevention based eco-costs (of carbon footprint), apart from periods of high inflation (the recent 2.5 years), since price reductions (because of economy of scale and learning effects) have been at the same level as the increase of price because of inflation.
Note. For damage based indicator systems, it is hardly possible to predict the future (Nils Bohr), so calculations on time-dependency are extremely uncertain.

C. The effect of future abatement measures
However, that is not to say that “a kind of discounting” for future emissions is always wrong in LCA.
It is important to understand the difference between:
(1) a specific amount of emissions is not less severe in the future (as described above)
(2) a system that causes an emission is likely to reduce the emissions in future (e.g. future reduction of carbon content of electricity, future shift from fossil content to biobased content in fuels and plastics).

In situation (1) discounting should not be applied. However, in situation (2) one should take care that savings in the use phase or at the end-of-life phase should not be overestimated.
An example is the way credits are calculated at the end-of-life because of heat recovery (according to ISO 14044): the replaced electricity in future has less carbon content than it has now, resulting in less credit.
Another example is the eco-costs payout time of systems that save energy: when this pay-out time is rather long (e.g. more than e.g. 5 years), the reduction of the credit for ’emission savings’ should be taken into account, resulting in a longer eco-costs pay-out.
For systems that consume energy this works the other way around: for an electrical car it is realistic to assume that the carbon content of electricity will drastically be reduced in the coming years, which reduces the eco-costs pay-out time.

The temporal calculations for office buildings and for dwellings are rather complex. See page 57 – 61 of the LCA Guide at this website. Low discount rates are advised (1 – 2%) for eco-costs as well as costs, keeping the EVR constant.

D. Consequential LCA 
Consequential LCA, in contrast to the traditional “attributional” LCA, is an approach that is focused on understanding the environmental consequences of a society wide change in system, rather than a change of a product. This approach is particularly useful for evaluating the broader impacts of changes in the environmental policy of a country. It answers the question: quoteWhat are the environmental impacts related to the full share of those activities that are expected to change when producing, consuming, and disposing of the product?” unquote (from the consequential LCA organization)
Consequential LCA was widely pushed by Ecoinvent (for commercial reasons?), has some elements in it from point C, but was never widely accepted, mainly because LCA is hardly applied for political policies, and the assumptions for the future have too many uncertainties.

E. Financial discounting of value (if necessary)
It is good to realize that the aforementioned “discounting” of environmental burden (eco-costs) has nothing to do with financial discounting, since financial discounting is derived from the interest rate. For a short explanation of financial discounting, see footnote 34, page 61 of the LCA guide at this website.
On average, capital markets want to be compensated for price inflation, so that the so called ‘real interest’ (=interest rate – price inflation) is on average aprox. 2%. Financial discounting in EVR calculations (if necessary to account for corrections of value in time) to should be based on this ‘real interest’.