The goal of a life cycle inventory (LCI) is to create a mass balance which accounts for all input and output to the overall system. It emphasizes that changes within the system may result in transferring a pollutant between media or may create upstream or downstream effects.
The LCI is the best understood part of the LCA. The LCA has had substantial methodology development and now most practitioners conduct their analyses in similar ways. The research activities of the EPA's Pollution Research Branch at Cincinnati have resulted in a guidance manual for the LCA (Keoleian, Menerey, and Curran 1993).
The EPA manual presents the following nine steps for performing a comprehensive inventory along with general issues to be addressed:
Define the purpose Define the system boundaries Devise a checklist Gather data
Develop stand-alone data Construct a model Present the results Conduct a peer review Interpret the results
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