Posted on: 25th March 2024 by Dr. Michael Kenyon

As global awareness of environmental issues continues to rise, businesses are under increasing pressure to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. Conducting an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an effective way for companies in the aluminium and other materials sectors to transparently communicate the environmental impact of their products.

Environmental Product Declaration from Innoval.

Innoval is uniquely positioned to conduct EPDs for your products. This is due to our in-depth aluminium supply chain knowledge and experience in delivering Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) for aluminium and other metallic systems. We can conduct EPDs according to recognised standards such as EN 15804.

In this Insights post, we will explore the key steps involved in creating an EPD for aluminium products.

Step 1: Define the EPD programme.

The first crucial step in conducting an EPD is to identify the EPD programme and Product Category Rules (PCR). Innoval, as the practitioner, and the product owner/commissioner of the study would do this together. PCRs are a set of guidelines and specifications that define the methodology for conducting an EPD for a specific product category. They provide a standardised framework for assessing the environmental impacts of products within a particular industry, ensuring consistency and comparability of EPDs.

Step 2: Define the scope and boundaries.

The next step is to define the scope and boundaries of the assessment. This involves specifying the functional unit, the system boundaries, and the life cycle stages to be included in the analysis. For aluminium products, these stages typically include raw material extraction, primary production, secondary production (recycling), manufacturing, transportation, use, and end-of-life.

Step 3: Collect data on raw Materials and assess primary production.

Gathering accurate and comprehensive data on the raw materials used in aluminium production is essential. This includes information on the extraction of bauxite, the primary raw material for aluminium, as well as other materials used in the production process.

Figure 1: Detailed data should include emissions during extraction and transportation of the raw materials.

Practitioners should collect detailed data on energy consumption, water usage, and emissions during extraction and transportation to ensure a thorough assessment. If this information is upstream of the core processes, we can assist with data collection for incoming primary aluminium products.

Aluminium production involves energy-intensive processes, particularly in the refining and smelting stages. It’s important to assess the environmental impact of these processes, considering factors such as energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, and water usage.

Step 4: analyse manufacturing processes.

Once the assessment of the upstream production is complete, we turn our attention to the manufacturing processes. We must consider the energy and resources required, as well as any emissions generated during the various stages of manufacturing. It’s essential to account for any material from a secondary production route i.e. recycled. This is because recycling aluminium typically has significantly lower environmental impact compared to primary aluminium.

Step 5: Evaluate transportation impacts.

It’s important to also assess the environmental impact of transporting raw materials, semi-finished products, and the final aluminium product. Things to consider include the modes of transportation, the distance travelled, and the utilisation of the cargo.

Step 6: Consider Use-Phase impacts.

The use phase of aluminium products may also contribute to their environmental footprint. We must consider factors such as energy consumption during product use, maintenance requirements, and any potential impact on the environment during this stage.

Step 7: Assess End-of-Life impacts.

Examining the environmental implications of the end-of-life stage for aluminium products is important. We must evaluate the potential for recycling, reuse, or disposal, and calculate the associated environmental impacts. Recycling aluminium is particularly significant as it requires much less energy to recycle aluminium than it does to produce it from primary sources.

Step 8: Prepare the EPD report.

Finally, practitioners must compile all the data collected and conduct a life cycle assessment to quantify the environmental impacts at each stage. They should use the information to prepare a comprehensive EPD report that adheres to recognised standards such as EN 15804. The report should present the data in a clear and transparent manner. It should allow stakeholders to easily understand the environmental performance of the aluminium product.

Step 9: Verify the EPD report.

The verification of the EPD study is a critical step to ensure its credibility and reliability. An independent third party carries out the verification to assess whether the EPD adheres to the PCR guidelines. The process involves a thorough review of the data, methodologies, and compliance with specific criteria.

The verification process may vary slightly depending on the specific programme operator, PCR or guidelines followed by the verification body. The verified EPD, along with the verification statement, is published on relevant platforms, providing stakeholders with confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the environmental information.

Let us conduct your EPD.

Conducting an Environmental Product Declaration for aluminium products and other material systems, is a proactive step towards promoting transparency and sustainability in an industry. By conducting an EPD with Innoval, you can demonstrate your commitment to environmental responsibility. You’ll provide your customers and stakeholders with valuable information to make informed choices in support of a greener future.