Comprehensive environmental assessment of a chemical product
Background
Working procedure
Experiences
 
Eco-efficiency analysis of products or processes
 
Handling and reporting environmental information
 
How to perform an LCA
 
How to perform an LCC
 
How to perform an EPD
 
How to perform application specific ERA
 
Material declaration and recycling description
 
Policy controlled environmental management
 
Product Stewardship implementation
 
Basing environmental arguments on ISO/TS 14048 documented facts
 
Strategy for producing environmental information formats
 
  Strategy for steering environmental work within SCA
 
  Strategy for the use of LCA within SCA
 

Comprehensive environmental assessment of a chemical product

The aim of this strategy is to describe how and when Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) can be used in combination to assess the total environmental impact from a chemical product, based on experiences from Akzo Nobel.
 
Background

Printable version of strategy

In order not to make environmental sub-optimizations when choosing between different products, all of the possible detrimental effects on the environment that the product may give rise to during its life cycle should preferably be included.
Consider for example a comparative assessment of two chemical bleaching products where only the impact on global warming is included. The comparison would limp because the toxic and eco-toxic properties of the products were not included. Consider also a comparative assessment of two asphalt additives, where one is used in very small amounts, but toxic, and the other is not toxic, but used in large amounts and contributes largely to global warming. This assessment would limp if the contribution to global warming was not included.

Background data for a comprehensive environmental assessment would include e.g. aspects like the inherent properties of the chemical constituents and properties of the local and regional environment as well as the resource consumption, emissions and waste the product gives rise to during its life cycle. There is no single tool available that includes all these different aspects, but the combination of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and an Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) can present a good overview of possible detrimental effects.

The aim of an Environmental Risk Assessment study is to assess whether there may be a risk to the environment from possible releases of a specific chemical substance.
Life Cycle Assessment is the assessment of possible environmental impacts from all activities necessary for the existence of product. Environmental impacts from resources used, emissions emitted and wastes produced by the activities in the life cycle from raw material extraction through processing, manufacturing, use and waste handling are accounted for in the LCA.
An ERA and an LCA can therefore complement each other to form a comprehensive environmental assessment of a substance. The advantages of using a complementary tool depend on the purpose of the study, as exemplified above. The working procedure therefore has two starting points:

  1. The important issue is the problematic inherent properties of the chemical product, e.g. toxicity or persistence -> ERA with a complementary LCA
  2. The important issue is the total environmental impact of the products, but one alternative product may cause toxic or eco-toxic effects -> LCA with a complementary ERA.

Akzo Nobel has performed an ERA, an LCA and a comparative LCA on an additive used in very small quantities in asphalt pavement. The experiences from the studies are summarized in this strategy and the report can be downloaded here. A report about the relationships between Risk assessment and Life cycle assessment can be downloaded here.

People working with environmental support within a company or are involved in research & development or marketing functions may benefit from a more holistic view in their environmental assessments of chemical products.
Basic knowledge of the LCA and ERA methodologies may be a prerequisite for using this strategy.

Working procedure