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A life cycle assessment (LCA) is a method used to gain a full picture of a product’s overall environmental impact during its entire life cycle.

The assessment looks at everything from raw material extraction and manufacturing processes to use and waste management.

Life cycle assessments can be applied to all human activities and products such as food, packaging, electronics, fuel, transport and so on. By identifying which stages in the production chain have the greatest environmental impact, companies can focus their efforts in the right place and create an effective environmental management system. An increasing number of companies and organisations now conduct life cycle assessments as part of their environmental work.


Life cycle of print and digital media

In order to determine which medium is preferable in terms of the climate, it is necessary to examine the life cycle assessments of the different media. All the studies analysed in the literature review that Power of Print commissioned from IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute are based on life cycle assessments.


The review studied a number of different types of print media along with many of their electronic equivalents. The product systems showed major differences in their life cycles, despite their common goal of communicating with an end recipient. This does, however, enable comparisons to be made.


In print media, the life cycle covers:

  • forestry, including wood transport
  • paper production, including paper transport
  • text work, including fieldwork, computers, heating, lighting etc.
  • printing, including printing of consumable material and finishing
  • waste management


For digital media, the life cycle is usually divided into the phases:

  • production of e-readers such as computers and tablets
  • use
  • text work, including fieldwork, computers, heating, lighting etc.
  • waste management for technical equipment, e.g. e-readers
  • forestry and paper production, when the material is printed out on a home printer


However, there are no rules on which life cycle phases must be included in a product’s life cycle. This is instead determined by the parameters set for each study. In studies where printed and equivalent digital information are compared with each other, it is relatively common for certain phases to be excluded, since they are considered to be equal for both product systems.


Text: Maria Blomgren, Swedish Graphic Companies’ Federation (GFF)

Source: Power of Print in cooperation with Print Power (www.powerofprint.se)




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The Holmen Group

Holmen is a forest industry group that manufactures printing paper, paperboard and sawn timber and runs forestry and energy production operations. The company’s extensive forest holdings and its high proportion of energy production are strategically important resources for its future growth.

Holmen AB

Tel: 08-666 21 00

E-post: info@holmen.com

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