This report describes the development of an environmental impact assessment framework dedicated to evaluating the sustainability characteristics of managed end-of-life routes relevant to bio-based products. This environmental assessment framework was developed in coherence with the recommendations made within the Product Environmental Footprint guidance which in turn complies with the ISO14040 and EN16760 standards for life cycle assessment (LCA) of products. The framework consists of a set of LCA impact indicators and novel, non-LCA ‘hybridised’ indicators which were developed based on the combination of principles of resource efficiency and green chemistry.
The aim of this extended framework is to quantify and highlight the use of potentially hazardous chemicals, describe effective resource utilisation and waste reduction strategies employed in given technology routes, alongside reporting the impacts and credits associated to resource production and consumption during the management of post-consumer products. In addition to these indicators, science-based relative thresholds have been proposed. These thresholds were developed based on the qualitative guidance presented within global initiatives and goals including the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement. Nevertheless, this study does recommend the use of subjective thresholds based on consensus reached with a broad range of stakeholders.
To test the effectiveness of the framework, the developed methods and metrics were adopted for a follow-on environmental impact evaluation and applied to the end-of-life management of the selected bio-based products and their petroleum-derived commercial counterparts. As many managed end-of-life options as practical were captured within this study, following the guidance provided under CEN/TR/16957 for developing end-of-life inventory for bio-based products. The outcomes of this method evaluation, its strengths and limitations have been elaborated within this report.