Environmental Product Declaration
Across different sectors there is increasing demand for quantitative information concerning the environmental performance of products. To comply with this demand, a voluntary Environmental Product Declaration programme was set up by the industry several years ago. The EPD system is a way of providing science-based, verified and comparable environmental information. An EPD is thus a comprehensive and concise disclosure of a product’s environmental impact based on the results of a full LCA. EPDs follow international standards, including ISO 14044 and ISO 14025. Furthermore, the EN15804 + A1:2013 provides the core rules for the creation of Environmental Product Declarations for building products and materials.
AGC Glass Europe fully recognises the need for such a harmonised approach that is accepted by the industry, the public sector and non-government organisations around the world. The use of EPDs as best pratice has been recognized and is internationally supported by the industry and the EU Commission, where the Construction Products Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 specifies that EPDs should be used when available. Companies and organisations in countries all over the world are working to improve the system.
Life Cycle Analysis
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is an internationally accepted (standards ISO 14040 & ISO 14044) and scientific tool that is used to quantify the environmental performance attributable to the different life stages of our products, including upstream stages such as raw material production and energy supply. Results are benchmarked based on LCA indicators with the final aim of identifying operational efficiencies and optimising product design while providing a higher level of environmental transparency. LCA is a standardized methodology whose goal is to assess the potential impacts of a product, based on all the inputs and outputs involved during the manufacturing of a product as well as upstream and downstream processes: supply chain, packaging, transport, use and end-of-life.
We actively participate in LCA for European float and magnetron coated glass through our membership of the “Glass for Europe” federation. We are also involved in the LCA for insulating and laminated glass as part of the programme run by the French trade association for the flat glass industry (Chambre Syndicale des Fabricants de Verre Plat) as well as ongoing work from Vakgroep GLAS, Bouwend Nederland aiming at introducing industry wide EPDs in the Dutch database Nationale Milieudatabase.
Based on the knowledge shared, the AGC EPD programme was set in place and is now part of our integrated approach.
Conducting LCA for our products allows us to update our EPDs and bring them into line with the latest European standards. It helps AGC to:
- Monitor our Cradle-to-Cradle policy
- Understand the impact of the inputs of our materials
- Recognise the environmental impact of our products
- Guarantee that our footprint is beneficial for end-users
- Keep track of our value chain and our resource efficiency.
Global warming potential
This indicator is mostly affected by emissions of CO2 arising all along the life cycle. Glass melting is the main source of impact, reflecting both the use of fossil fuels (mostly natural gas) to operate our float plants and decarbonisation of raw materials. Besides emissions at the float plant, energy consumption also means indirect impacts at the energy supply stage, such as natural gas extraction and electricity generation and transmission by power plants.
The production of raw materials is the second main contributor, especially synthetic soda ash which is the main one from a GWP perspective. While most of the raw materials are natural minerals which are only extracted and transported, synthetic soda ash is produced through a chemical reaction between sodium chloride (salt) and limestone, which requires significant energy consumption.
That is why cullet from outside sources is so interesting for the glass industry: it avoids raw material production and decarbonisation at the glass melting stage, and it reduces energy consumption from the melting furnace since cullet requires 25% less energy than virgin raw materials.
This indicator reflects emissions of acidifying substances all through the life cycle, especially NOx and SOx. Glass melting is the main source of impact, due to the high-temperature reactions in the furnace. Above a certain temperature, oxygen and nitrogen from the air spontaneously react to form NOx. This thermal NOx is the main source of acidifying substances from the glassmaking process.
SOx emissions also contribute to this indicator, but have been decreasing over time. Historically, these emissions came from the use of heavy fuel oil, but this has almost disappeared from our float plants. The remaining emissions comes from virgin raw materials containing sulphates. In order to limit the air pollution due to its plants, AGC has equipped its float plants with pollution abatement devices such as DeNOx and DeSOx systems.
Raw material production is the second main contributor due to synthetic soda ash production and its associated electricity consumption.
Adding to this, the requirement for third-party verification confirms the robustness of the underlying calculations. The outcome of the LCA, while it offers the information required for the sustainability certification of buildings, is also useful to offset the environmental impact in the production stage with the savings generated by these high-performance glazing products in the use stage of their life cycle. Read here more information about carbon footprint.
Benefits of the Environmental Product Declarations:
- Life cycle approach,
- Transparent disclosure of environmental information,
- Independent verification.
EPDs also provide designers and architects with a way of identifying and assessing the environmental effects and impacts connected with building/construction materials, products and building systems. Most of our declarations benefit from third party verification that distinguishes the stewardship of our products in a way that customers recognise and accept.
Indeed, within different green building schemes such as LEED and BREEAM, credits can be earned for using products that have EPDs (or related information) in building design and construction. Considering that LEED and BREEAM apply to green building projects, individual products can contribute to gather points.
For BREEAM, 6 points are available in the category “Mat 01 Life Cycle Impacts” for considering a “low environmental impact over full building life cycle” and in which 1 credit is earned directly if the building products have an externally verified EPD.
Regarding LEED, a specific point is available to encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available. With our EPDs, projects can thus meet the LEED disclosure criteria “MR – Building Disclosure and Optimization – Environmental Product Declarations”.