Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): Method to evaluate the magnitude of resources consumption and impacts on the environment for a material or product throughout its whole life cycle (production, use, waste disposal and recycling) .Rather than focusing on the environmental load alone, it evaluates from a comprehensive viewpoint. 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 as way that they achieve the greatest environment benefit for the entire system.
PVC product systems have been investigated using LCA methodology in almost all significant application areas in terms of production quantity.
Overview on PVC and LCAs: the PE Europe/Stuttgart University Report
As part of a full review of PVC, the independent and reputed PE Europe Consulting Group together with the University of Stuttgart were engaged by the European Commission to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment of PVC and of Principal Competing Materials. The report was published in June 004
and confirmed that PVC is a material like any other, with both strong and weak points, depending on the application and on its use, and that there is no reason to treat PVC differently from any other material.
The main conclusions of the report were:
|Download PE Europe/Stuttgart University Report here|
LCI data for PVC
It is important to collect and provide proper LCI (Life Cycle Inventory) 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.
As for feedstock energy however, PVC, of which more than half of its weight is composed of chlorine, requires about half the resource energy needed for the plastics based mainly on hydrocarbons. The sum of process energy and resource energy for suspension PVC is therefore only about 57 MJ/kg well below the corresponding sum for these other polymers, PVC is an excellent material with the least energy load.
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 2006. 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.