Life-cycle environmental assessment
Life-cycle environmental assessment (LCA) involves the collection and evaluation of quantitative data on all the inputs and outputs of material, energy and waste flows associated with a product over its entire life cycle so that the environmental impacts can be determined. LCA quantifies environmental effects against a range of impact categories (see page 103). LCA may also provide qualitative assessment of other environmental impacts, such as on biodiversity and land-use, that are less easy to quantify.
The LCA of The Wish List builds on a two-year study, commissioned by AHEC and undertaken by PE International, to assess environmental impacts associated with delivery of US hardwood material into world markets . This involved a wide-ranging independent assessment of hardwood forestry practices and a survey of the hundreds of US companies engaged in the processing and export of hardwood products.
Information from the LCA of US hardwoods was combined with data gathered during product manufacture at Benchmark in the UK. It was also combined with PE’s existing life-cycle inventory database which covers an expanding range of non-wood materials and product groups.
To model the cradle-to-grave impact of The Wish List, the following assumptions are made about waste disposal during manufacturing and at the end of the product's life.
• 80% of hardwood waste is used as a fuel for biomass boilers, substituting for light fuel oil.
• The remaining 20% of hardwood waste is reused for other products (no benefits have been modelled for this option).
• Other parts (including glues, coatings, fittings, etc.) are incinerated, with electricity and thermal-energy recovery using appropriate datasets.
These assumptions are based on information gathered from Benchmark about its standard procedures for use of waste and from secondary sources about waste-disposal practices in the UK.
The LCA of each individual product on The Wish List was modelled separately and the detailed results for each are available below: