LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) is a quantitative and objective method to evaluate environmental loads (consumption of material and energy resources, emission of environmental load substances and wastes), through all phases of a product including resource extraction, production, use and waste disposal.
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/Stuttgart 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 '04 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:
- Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) comparisons should be undertaken at the application level rather than solely at the material level.
- The use and disposal phase must also be considered in order to answer the question "Which material is produced in the most environmentally friendly way?"
- The overall impacts of PVC products depend not only on the production of PVC itself, but also on its application characteristics (formulation, use phase impact, product durability, recyclability). General statements regarding environmental performance of a PVC product should only be made with respect to the application and with all the life cycle stages taken into account.