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Critical review of guidelines against a systematic framework with regard to consistency on allocation procedures for recycling in LCA

Schrijvers, Dieuwertje L., Loubet, Philippe, Sonnemann, Guido
The international journal of life cycle assessment 2016 v.21 no.7 pp. 994-1008
coproducts, greenhouse gases, guidelines, market prices, markets, polymerase chain reaction, recycled materials, recycling, stakeholders
PURPOSE: Multifunctionality in LCA can be solved by several allocation procedures. Various official guidelines give divergent recommendations in which allocation procedure to apply, and up to now, no consensus has been reached. We aim to identify the obstacles to a consistent allocation approach that can be applied to all product categories and is supported by a broad range of stakeholders. METHODS: Based on a systematic framework for consistent allocation, developed by Schrijvers et al. (Int J Life Cycle Assess, 2016), we identify five review criteria that indicate the degree of consistency in the proposed allocation procedure of official guidelines. Several relevant guidelines, i.e. ISO 14044, ISO/TR 14049, ISO/TS 14067, the ILCD Handbook, BP X30-323-0, PAS 2050, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, EN15804, PEF Guide and guidance documents for EPDs and PCRs, are reviewed according to these criteria. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: None of the investigated guidelines fully follows the systematic framework for allocation. Often, different approaches are recommended for co-products and recycled materials, although the boundary between these flows is not always clear. Many guidelines do not recognize the existence of different LCA goals; therefore, elements of attributional and consequential LCAs are often mixed. The market situation of the recycled material is not always taken into account, e.g. in the mandatory 50/50 method of the PEF Guide. The ILCD Handbook and the General Programme Instructions for the International EPD® System provide most consistent guidance. We argue that consistency does not require a one-formula-fits-all method, as this would favour some product categories and only responds to a certain LCA goal. CONCLUSIONS AND PERSPECTIVES: A critical review of guidelines against a systematic framework for allocation of co-products and recycled materials shows that few guidelines propose a consistent allocation approach. The main obstacles for consistency are the different approaches for co-production and (different types of open-loop) recycling and disregarding of different LCA goals and recycled material markets. We recommend to include material specific guidance in Product Category Rules on the determination of market prices, quality determining factors and relevant material properties for different applications.