The scope of a complete LCA covers all stages from the production of a raw material to the product's end-of-life phase (see Figure).

Further, an LCA consists of the following elements:

  • In the Life Cycle Inventory, the resource consumption (inputs) and benefits (outputs) of the different stages are quantified.
  • During the Life Cycle Impact Assessment, input and output are assigned to the seven impact categories:
    • Global warming
    • Ozone depletion
    • Acidification for soil and water
    • Eutrophication
    • Photochemical ozone creation
    • Abiotic depletion – non-fossil resources
    • Abiotic depletion – fossil resources

GF is committed to protecting the environment. It is therefore important for the Corporation to know about the potential environmental impacts of its products and systems. To asses these impacts, GF conducted a number of LCAs for different products and materials and compiled respective Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) in line with the standard EN 15804+A1. An EPD is an independently verified and registered document that provides transparent and comparable information about the environmental impact of products.

Following the LCA approach, GF Piping Systems evaluated the impact of its various plastic systems. For example, this included the assessments of unplasticized Polyvinylchloride (PVC-U), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene (PE), as well as Polybutene (PB). As such, GF Piping Systems assessed and compared these specific systems to alternative installations used for the same purpose:

  • The PVC-U system is part of an installation for the dosage of chemicals. The system was compared to a stainless steel system.
  • The PP-systems are used for transporting chemicals. The system was compared to a competing system made from stainless steel.
  • The PE-system is used for the transportation of cooling water for power plants and was compared to a glass-reinforced plastic system.
  • The PB-system is used for water distribution on cruise ships and compared to a copper system.

The results of the LCAs at GF Piping Systems show that for the mentioned applications, on average, GF's plastic piping systems have a potential environmental impact that is around 30% lower than the respective competing systems. A detailed analysis of the results illustrates that the biggest environmental impacts occur during the products' use & maintenance stage. As the impact of this stage is similar regardless of the type of system used, one can exclude it as a common denominator. For the other stages, GF's systems show a 70% lower environmental impact.

In regards to the global warming impact, one plastic system saves on average between 1’900 kg (PVC-U) to 250’300 kg (PB) of CO-equivalents. This corresponds to the volume of CO that is released by a midsize vehicle on a journey of 11’900 to 1’564’000 kilometers respectively.

Longer determined lifetime of plastic systems (25 years) plays a significant role in this. The necessity of replacing the competitive product after 10 to 15 years has a high environmental impact across all categories. Furthermore, the environmental impacts during the production of raw materials and manufacturing phase are significantly higher for most competitive systems.

For more details on the different LCAs that GF conducted to date, contact sustainability@georgfischer.com.