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Life cycle assessment of ACQ-treated Veneer Based Composite (VBC) hollow utility poles from hardwood plantation mid-thinning

Lu, Hangyong (Ray), El Hanandeh, Ali
Sustainable Production and Consumption 2016 v.5 pp. 36-50
acidification, copper, durability, ecotoxicology, energy recovery, eutrophication, forests, fossils, global warming potential, hardwood, life cycle assessment, logging, manufacturing, new markets, particleboards, plantations, profitability, recycling, resins, transportation, utility poles, Queensland
Hardwood plantations are slow to mature with low financial returns in the early stage. Veneer Based Composite (VBC) products developed from mid-thinning may improve the industry’s profitability and win new markets. Due to the increasing demand for utility poles and the banning of native forests logging in Australia, VBC poles may become viable alternative to native hardwood poles. Alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ) preservative treated VBC pole was assessed using life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. The manufacturing processes considered were based on the current technologies in Queensland. VBC pole life cycle stages assessed include mid-thinning, manufacturing, service-life, and disposal. Three end-of-life scenarios were considered: landfilling, incineration for energy recovery and recycling as particleboard. The functional unit used in this assessment is 1-metre-length pole with 115-mm internal-diameter and 15-mm wall-thickness. Global Warming Potential (GWP100), Fossil Depletion Potential (FDP), Acidification Potential (AP), Eutrophication Potential (EP), and Ecological Toxicity Potential (ETP) were quantified. Results indicated that landfilling and incineration outperform the recycling option. Incineration scenario performed slightly better under the GWP100 (0.3659kg-CO2-Eq), AP (2.12g-SO2-Eq), FDP (0.360kg-Oil-Eq) and EP (3.81g-PO4-Eq). Meanwhile, landfilling scenario had slightly less impact in ETP (12.32-CTUe). Despite generating valuable products, the burdens caused by secondary manufacturing and transportation overweighed credits earned from recycling. ACQ treatment, Phenol-formaldehyde (PF) resins production and transportation distances were identified as significant parameters affecting the final result. Sensitivity analysis indicated that EP was sensitive to change in ACQ consumption; ETP was affected by PF resin use while changing distances of transporting product affected GWP100, AP and FDP.