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A Handbook of Industrial Ecology

Edited by Robert U. Ayres and Leslie W. Ayres

Industrial ecology is coming of age and this superb book brings together leading scholars to present a state-of-the-art overviews of the subject. Each part of the book comprehensively covers the following issues in a systematic style: the goals and achievements of industrial ecology and the history of the field; methodology, covering the main approaches to analysis and assessment; economics and industrial ecology; industrial ecology at the national/regional level; industrial ecology at the sectoral/materials level; and applications and policy implications.
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Chapter 12: Industrial ecology and life cycle assessment

Helias A. Udo de Haes


Helias A. Udo de Haes Life cycle assessment can be regarded as part of industrial ecology, which is a science that studies the interaction between society and its environment. In this field quite different approaches present themselves. First of all a distinction can be made between studies which are performed in physical terms and studies which are performed in monetary terms. Studies in physical terms have their historical roots in the 19th century and go back to Marx and Engels. These authors used the term ‘metabolism’ (Stoffwechsel) to imply a material relation between man and nature, a mutual interdependence beyond the widespread simple idea of man utilizing nature (cf. Fischer-Kowalski 1998). Studies in monetary terms may take the environment into account as physical extensions of monetary models, like input–output analysis as developed in the 1980s (Leontief 1986), or they may even address the environmental consequences of economic activities in monetary terms, as in cost–benefit analysis. The present chapter only includes studies of the society–environment relationship in physical terms. In this field of physical relationships a further distinction can be made regarding different types of object. Thus environmental risk assessment (ERA) has its focus on the assessment of environmental impacts of single activities like the functioning of a factory, or of single substances. In fact ERA studies start with the emissions and do not really consider the processes in the economy which precede them. Then there are studies which have their basis in physical...

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