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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 13: Impact evaluation in industrial ecology

Bengt Steen


Bengt Steen The focus of this chapter is on evaluation of impacts from emissions, resource extractions and other interventions from human activities and technical systems on our environment. The analysis of technical systems is only briefly touched upon. The term ‘evaluation’ is used to represent a subjective view on descriptions of processes and states in objective physical terms. This means that both physical parameters and human attitudes and preferences are included. Evaluation of environmental impacts from human activities is made in several contexts in society and several evaluation methodologies or methodological frameworks exist. Sometimes these are called ‘tools’ and thought of as being part of a ‘toolbox’. When needed, the appropriate tool is picked out of the toolbox and used for impact evaluation. In reality the flexibility of the various tools is such that they overlap in many applications. The tools have many similarities but their focus and terminology vary. The oldest tool is probably risk assessment (RA). There are three types of risk assessment: for human health, for ecological health and for accidents. The first two are mostly used for chemicals and the third for industrial activities (including chemical manufacturing). They all are carried out in a similar way: first there is a hazard identification step, second there is a risk estimation step (hazard impact times probability) and third there is a risk communication step. The RA methodology has been strongly influenced by several major industrial accidents (notably Seveso and Bhopal) though it has evolved in...

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