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Product environmental footprint (PEF) method compared with environmental product declarations (EPDS)

 

Ludo Debever, Peter Sejersen, Carolin Spirinckx

Papers # 2018 Las-Vegas

Until today there are various ways of demonstrating the Environmental Performance of products, such as Life Cycle Assessments (LCA), Life Cycle Impact Assessments (LCIA), Environmental Performance Declarations (EPDs). The methods to obtain the result, however, can vary from country to country and can be interpreted differently and are difficult to interpret by the product user. There are also various environmental claims, such as ecolabels, which cannot be verified and can confuse the end consumer. The European Commission therefore decided to develop a method that can be used on any product or on any organisation and that will allow the end consumer to make a choice when taking environmental aspects into account. This method is called the Product Environmental Footprint. A 3-year pilot phase was finalised in April 2018 and the method is now going through a transition phase before a final decision will be taken how to implement the method in existing legislation.

The European Commission decided in 2013 to launch a new initiative on how to assess the environmental footprint of products (PEF) and organizations (OEF). Unlike the existing ISO1 and EN Standards2 the intention of the DG Environment & JRC was to develop a method which can be used for all kind of products and organizations. 

A three-year pilot phase started in 2013 and has just ended. Now the PEF/OEF transition phase will start. During the transition phase the experiences and knowledge gained during the pilots will be used for a broader roll out and for further finetuning of the approved Product Category Rules (PEFCRs) developed within the pilot phase.

The PEF method is seen as a game changer. First, for each product group an environmental benchmark, also called “the European Representative Product” has been defined for each environmental category to which the environmental performance is measured against. Secondly the European Commission is aiming for a communication on the environmental performance of products, not only for B2B business but also for B2C communication. This aim is very ambitious and will require a complete new set of communication vehicles which are still under discussion and development. Currently the European Commission is in the process of exploring different possible usage of the PEF method. Options which are currently under discussion are among others: a mandatory method, a voluntary method, but mandatory for communication, a method to support eco-labelling and/or an instrument for Green Public Procurement.

TEPPFA has many years of experience in LCA studies assessing the environmental environmental performance of many plastic piping systems. During the last 6 years more than 20 EPDs according to EN158043 have been issued. In parallel also several comparative LCAs in which the environmental performance of plastic piping systems are compared with traditional competing piping systems like concrete, copper and ductile iron have been issued. Based on this extensive experience, TEPPFA was selected by the European Commission to lead the PEF pilot project dealing with hot and cold-water supply piping systems.

Although the PEF method is based on LCA it is in many ways different compared to the EN standard EN 15804 dealing with construction products: the number of impact categories to report are higher, calculation methods are different and finally the data quality requirements are much higher. “EF compliant datasets” are being provided by the European Commission to secure that all secondary datasets are coming from the same source. To understand how the introduction of the PEF method impacts the environmental performance of the plastic pipe systems and how it alters the comparisons to traditional materials, TEPPFA has set up several internal “shadow projects” in parallel with the PEF pilot project. The aim of those projects is to better understand the impact of PEF on other pipe applications compared to alternative materials.

Related keywords : Environmental Product Declaration, Product Environmental Footprint, Life Cycle Assessment, hot & cold-water piping systems; PEX pipes, copper pipes, MLP (multilayer pipes PE/Al/PE).
Please note that the whole article content is available on PPCA website only


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