Title: LCA for assessing environmental benefit of eco-design strategies and short forest-wood supply chain: a furniture case study
Publication Year: 2014
JRC N°: JRC90284
ISSN: 0948-3349
URI: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11367-014-0757-7
DOI: 10.1007/s11367-014-0757-7
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Ecoinnovation strategies are increasingly adopted to ensure the minimization of environmental impacts. Nonetheless, only a comprehensive integrated assessment along the life cycle stages of a product may ensure a robust analysis of the benefit of the innovation. The object of the present study is the environmental assessment of furniture prototypes produced using certified wood and integrating eco-design criteria in their conception. The aim of the study was twofold: firstly, to evaluate the environmental profile of the furniture, highlighting possible hot-spots of impacts; and secondly, to evaluate the capability of LCA to identify the environmental benefit associated to the adoption of life-cycle management and ecodesign strategies, such as: ensuring short supply chain from raw material to production; using wood coming from certified forests (according to PEFC scheme); and the implementation of ecodesign principles, also associated with green public procurement requirements. Methods LCA has been applied in a case study related to the wood furniture sector in the alpine region of Northern Italy is presented. Every activity was modeled using primary data, related to the inputs and outputs of the processes, provided directly by the designers and by woodworking firms. Input data related to forestry activities and wood extraction were collected and processed in a previous phase of the study. The life cycle of a prototype school-desk from the cradle-to-gate perspective was analyzed. A woodworking plant was examined in detail, dividing the whole manufacturing process into four phases: panels production, woodworking, painting and steel parts processing. The system boundaries included all the activities which take place inside the plant as well as energy inputs, transports and ancillary products used. Results and discussion The results highlighted that the working phases showing the greatest environmental burdens were: the production of solid wood panels and the processing of iron parts. No concerns about chemicals, glues and paints were raised, due to the eco-design principles implemented in the production of the furniture. The choice of a short supply chain allowed for drastic reductions in the impacts associated to long distance transports. Three sensitivity analyses were carried out to test the robustness of results concerning: 1) glue options; 2) drying phase and VOC emissions; 3) transport options. Conclusions This study proves to which extent eco-design criteria implemented in practice improve the environmental performance of products. All positive effects due to decisions taken in school desk design and conception were supported by evidence.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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