Recommended Approach for Use of Cradle-to-Gate Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in Procurement of Civil Infrastructure Materials

Procurement of more environmentally sustainable materials for civil infrastructure can be supported using environmental product declarations (EPDs). An EPD is a standardized label that is a scientifically sound way to communicate the potential environmental impacts and selected resource use and waste production flows from all or part of the life cycle of a product. To be called a Type III EPD, the life cycle assessment (LCA) for products used in civil infrastructure must be performed in accordance with ISO standards and the relevant product category rule (PCR) for the product type. Most EPDs for civil infrastructure materials in North America are “cradle-to-gate”, i.e., they include the impacts from the extraction of raw materials from the earth and end at the point at which the product is ready to leave the gate of the last manufacturing location. The steps leading to publication of an EPD include: 1) Developing the PCR, 2) Developing the LCA for the EPD, 3) Creating the EPD, and 4) Verification and publishing of the EPD. Industry-average, regional-average, product-specific, and facility-specific EPDs—with differing specificity to a particular product—are used for different purposes. EPDs are a source of data for materials impacts for use in assessment of the complete life cycle. They provide information to identify changes in impacts that can be made early in the materials production. They also can be used to help procure lower impact materials. This white paper discusses benefits of using EPDs and makes recommendations for improving their validity. Several areas needing improvement in current use in procurement are identified and recommendations are presented for improving the use of cradle-to-gate EPDs in transport infrastructure construction materials procurement and to provide input to complete life cycle pavement LCA to support decision-making.


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