Off the back of becoming the first in the UK to achieve an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for recycled aggregates, we have just hit the milestone of creating 1 million tonnes of recycled aggregates since opening in 2017! This has been made possible with the commitment of our customer fuelling our own mini circular economy by feeding their CDE waste into our recycling facility. We’ve seen our customers’ commitment to driving sustainable development in the construction industry grow over the years and this year we have been able to support that drive with the investment in an EPD for our sand and gravel products. Whilst EPDs have been around since the 1980s, they have had a surge in popularity in recent years due to their credibility and transparency when it comes to environmental impact assessments meaning that now our customers have access to exact carbon emissions data for their projects.
Never heard of an EPD before? We have put together a two-part guide for you to get familiar with what an EPD is and how it can ultimately benefit you and your carbon reporting. Let’s begin with a quick overview of what exactly an EPD is.
There are two commonly used acronyms when we’re talking about this topic: LCA and EPD.
Our LCA (lifecycle assessment) is an integrated part of our ISO 14001 Environmental Management standard which is audited by our certification body and is accredited by UKAS. It will allow you to precisely identify (using over 15 different impact categories) the effect of a product throughout its entire life cycle, allowing you to make more informed decisions about the materials and processes you use in projects.
LCA impact categories:
An EPD stands for Environmental Product Declaration, and is a third party verified Type III environmental label that acts as an environmental impact assessment for a product and is based on international standards (ISO 14025). Environmental labels are marks that indicate how products or services contribute to reducing environmental impact, and a Type III label helps to provide the consumer with quantitative and accurate carbon emissions data about the product. You can use the precise EPD results to inform your sustainability reporting or as a comparison against other products with EPDs.
The EPD presents the results of the LCA and does so in separate environmental impact categories (see below).
EPD environmental impact categories:
Similar products covered by the same Product Category Rules, and manufactured by the same company with the same core processes can be grouped and included in the same EPD. All of our sand and gravel products are covered by the same Product Category Rules.
Both an LCA and an EPD are carried out by the product manufacturer. The difference between the two being that the EPD can then be used by everyone in the supply chain to help with sustainability reporting and general decision making.
EPD Validity and Standards
We now know that the EPD is carried out by the producer of the product/material, and that it is an incredibly thorough process that leaves no stone unturned. For example, the level of detail within the LCA can go right down to our energy source mix, our fuel types, as well as the type of flocculant used for our water cleaning process. To top this level of detail off, EPDs are also independently verified, providing additional credibility and reliability that will allow you to use the results in sustainability reporting and beyond.
EPDs are governed by three standards:
- ISO 14040: Environmental management – Lifecycle assessment – Principles and framework.
- ISO 14025: Environmental labels and declarations – Type III environmental declarations
- EN 15804: Standard for the sustainability of construction works and services.
Our EPD, just like every other, is valid as soon as we completed the registration and publishing step of the process. A full list of companies with EPDs can be found at Greenbook Live. Its validity will be given a final date, which is stated on the EPD, but will normally be 5 years. Your EPD will also have to be updated if one of the environmental indicators has changed by more than 10%, but can equally be updated within the 5 year window to allow for improvements in efficiencies.
The results of an EPD can be summarised in a carbon emissions figure per tonne of product. As more construction projects begin to have sustainability weightings or require strict carbon reporting, we have created a carbon calculator for our customers to assess the carbon savings for their next project.
The awareness and the importance of EPDs is rapidly increasing across a range of countries and sectors. Although you can make EPDs for any type of product, the construction sector is a perfect example of where they can have maximum impact, due to the high carbon emissions in the industry. EPDs remove the need for guesstimating your carbon emissions in your project and gives you accurate and transparent environmental impact data. With Net Zero targets fast approaching, accreditations like this are only going to become more integrated in our industry.
Look out for our next blog this week as we dive further into EPDs and how you can use them throughout your supply chain and in the meantime, check out the savings you could make versus virgin aggregates and versus other recycled aggregates with our carbon calculator.