The European Commission's Single Market for Green Products initiative proposes a set of actions to overcome the problems companies and consumers face with the diverse amount of environmental information and methods available on the market. Amongst the proposed actions are the establishment of a Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology and a three year Pilot phase to develop product specific rules through a multi-stakeholder process. The aim of proposing the EU-wide PEF methodology is to measure the environmental performance of products and to encourage Member States and the private sector to take them up. VITO is involved in three building related pilots: hot and cold water supply piping systems in buildings, insulation materials used in buildings and metal sheets applied in buildings. In 2017 the Commission will make an in-depth evaluation of the results of this three-year testing period and the results of additional actions related to communication and recommendations. Based on this evaluation, the Commission will decide on further policy applications of the PEF methodology.

PEF pilot on hot and cold water supply piping systems in the building

The Pilot on hot and cold water supply piping systems, submitted by The European Plastic Pipes and Fittings Association (TEPPFA), the European Copper Institute (ECI), the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), the European Association of Plastics Manufacturers (PlasticsEurope) and the Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) is one of the Pilots accepted by the Commission for the three-years testing PEF Pilot phase. During the Pilot phase Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) for hot and cold water supply piping systems need to be developed. The PEFCR helps directing the focus of future PEF studies on hot and cold water supply piping systems to the most important parameters, thus also reducing time, efforts and costs. To foster the development of a PEFCR, PEF screening studies have been carried out. The representative product used in these screening studies is a virtual product based on the market shares of PEX (cross-linked polyethylene), Multilayer (Polymer/Aluminium/Polymer) and Copper hot and cold water supply piping systems. The weighted PEF environmental profile shows that the most relevant life cycle stages, having a contribution of >10%, are the acquisition and pre-processing of the raw materials for pipes, fittings and other components, manufacturing of pipes together with the ‘end-of-life treatment’. Based on expert knowledge it has been decided to consider as important also the life cycle stages related to the manufacturing of the fittings.

The PEF screening studies looked at 15 different life cycle impact categories. After normalisation of the results, the categories resource depletion (mineral, fossil), resource depletion water and human toxicity cancer effects are found to be the most important impact categories for the hot and cold water supply systems. Besides the above conclusions, the screening studies revealed that publicly available datasets for many processes and materials are missing. Moreover, the available data are often of poor quality which influences the outcome of the study. Also taking into account or not level III toxicity substances influences the outcome of the screening studies.

Currently PEF supporting studies are performed together with specific producers of PEX, Multilayer and Copper piping systems for hot and cold water supply in the buildings. The PEF supporting studies needs to be compliant with any specific requirement included in the draft PEFCR that has been developed, comprising all environmental impact categories and having a full coverage in terms of life cycle stages and processes. The PEF supporting studies are based on existing products as currently sold in the European market. The goal of the PEF supporting studies is to support evidence to the PEFCR development and the intended audience. The studies will be carried out under the assumption that the result will be used to contribute to the development of a PEFCR that could support comparisons or comparative assertions intended to be disclosed to the public. The results of these studies will be used to test the pertinence and implementability of the draft PEFCR including, but not limited to, the identified most relevant environmental impacts, issues related to data collection and quality, verification requirements. Moreover, the uncertainty analysis carried out on the results of the the PEF supporting studies may contribute to the identification of appropriate performance classes (where relevant and appropriate).

Presentation at the ARC conference 2016

The presentation at the ARC 2016 conference will focus on the results of testing the PEF methodology as published by the EC in 2013, step by step. In addition the presentation will illustrate the application of the methodology and illustrate the assessment results of the screening studies. By March 2016 when the ARC 2016 conference will take place, it is expected that the first results of the supporting studies will be ready, so that we can also present first results on the outcome of these studies.


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