Eco-profiles and LCA
A guideline for green procurement
The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method that evaluates the consumption of resources of a product throughout its entire life cycle (production, use, waste disposal and recycling), and the impact of this on the environment. Advantageously, LCA evaluates a product’s environmental impact from a comprehensive viewpoint, rather than focusing on the environmental load alone, It has been highlighted as one of the guidelines for material comparison and green procurement.
By using LCAs correctly it can be ensured that:
Product systems are not erroneously favoured or condemned on the basis of individual results
Developments do not inadvertently shift or even increase environmental impact but in fact reduce it
The resources available are directed in such a way that they achieve the greatest environment benefit for the entire system
Overview on PVC and LCAs: the PE Europe/Stuttgart University Report
As part of a full review of PVC, the independent PE Europe Consulting Group together with the University of Stuttgart were appointed by the European Commission to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment of PVC and of Principal Competing Materials. The report was published in June 2004. It confirmed that PVC is a material like any other, with both strong and weak points depending on the application and on its use, but that there is no reason to treat or perceive PVC as less advantageous than any other material.
The main conclusions of the report were:
Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) data for PVC
It is important to collect and provide proper LCI data for correct LCA evaluations.
According to the eco-profile data published by PlasticsEurope for general purpose plastics, there is no remarkable difference in the process energy from extraction of oil to plastic production between PVC and the other plastics.The production of PVC requires about half the feedstock energy that other plastics require.VC, composed of 57% of chlorine, requires about half the energy needed for the plastics based mainly on hydrocarbons. The sum of process energy and feedstock energy for suspension PVC is therefore only about 60 MJ/kg, below the corresponding sum for these other polymers.
Eco-profiles form part of Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA). Whereas LCAs are cradle-to-grave analyses of the environmental impact of a product, eco-profiles stop at the factory gate ("Cradle-to-gate"). The Eco-profiles of PVC were fully updated in 2015. They can be downloaded here.
The key impacts calculated in these eco-profiles are aggregated according to a standard methodology and published in Environmental Declarations. These Environmental Declarations are similar to an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) but, as PVC resin is not a finished product, the term Environmental Declaration is more appropriate.
PVC production processes have been continually improved in recent years and their environmental impact steadily reduced. The European PVC industry recognises that, along with all other manufacturing industries, it must pursue continual environmental improvement.