Environmental Impacts of Waste Disposal Options
CASE STUDY | For a global footwear and apparel producer, PRé conducted a life cycle assessment on their waste disposal methods. The 138 individual life cycle models in this analysis help determine the best options and improve company approach.
A global manufacturer of footwear and apparel wanted to determine the best end-of-life disposal options for its main waste materials, in order to validate and potentially refine the current company philosophy regarding waste disposal.
The first step was to prioritize three aspects of the project: materials to examine, disposition options for each material, and applicable geographies. Working with the manufacturer, seven materials were selected across seventeen dispositions and six geographic regions. PRé created 138 individual life cycle models for specific waste dispositions and materials, which were modified to be as specific as possible for each scenario. As primary data collection for this number of materials and dispositions would be very time and resource intensive, little primary data was gathered and PRé instead relied heavily on secondary data sources in the first phase of this project.
In order to determine the most environmentally preferable option, each pathway was given a single score, representing the environmental impacts of that option across eighteen different environmental factors. Higher scores represent those options that are the most preferable, while lower scores represent options which have a higher impact. As anticipated, reducing use of virgin materials was always the most preferable option. Recycling and energy recovery disposition options often varied in rank, as some recycling technologies are energy intensive. Disposal options, which include landfilling and incineration, were almost always the least preferable options. PRé also worked with the client to investigate which environmental factors were primarily responsible for driving each pathway’s score.
Working with PRé, the footwear and apparel manufacturer discovered the following project-driven benefits:
- A framework that provides a quantitative assessment of the environmental impacts of the waste dispositions for multiple materials
- Creation of a high level environmental impact assessment, which can be used to prioritize disposition options as well as identify specific areas for further exploration
- A heightened understanding of the downstream consequences of upstream material decisions
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