The life cycle of a product starts with raw material extraction, continues with the fabrication of the relevant semi-finished products, includes finishing and assembling of the final product as well as its use and maintenance, and concludes with the end-of-life operations. This last stage includes recycling of materials and, after adequate treatment, final disposal of waste.
For recyclable products such as aluminum products, a life cycle can be modeled "cradle-to-cradle" by a product system where the recycled material can substitute primary material. Only the material that is lost at the different stages of the life cycle needs to be replaced by primary material as illustrated in the figure below.
Life Cycle Thinking is an approach to address and analyze all these activities in regard to risks, opportunities, and value creation in order to find the best overall solutions. It involves internal decision-makers from R&D, production, marketing, or management, as well as external stakeholders such as suppliers, retailers, customers, consumers, and the general public.