The Tech Box
How do PCRs, EPDs, and LCAs Help the Corrugated Industry?
Fibre Box Association (FBA) is once again partnering with the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) and other stakeholders on Product Category Rules (PCR) for containerboard. The first PCR was
developed in 2017
and established the rules for performing Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) in the industry and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).
PCRs, LCAs, and EPDs tell us about the environmental costs of extracting resources and the actual cost of creating a product for use in our everyday lives. These tools give us the knowledge for steps we can take to make greener, more sustainable products.
So, what are the differences between PCRs, EPDs, and LCAs, and what work has the corrugated industry done in this arena?
PCRs allow for the review and comparison of different environmental product attributes among products in a defined category. PCRs help ensure that claims (boundaries, data, assumptions, uncertainty, etc.) are comparable when describing LCA results and provide instructions for how LCAs should be conducted. PCRs are also necessary to determine the rules and requirements for EPDs.
EPDs are a declaration of a product's attributes concerning different environmental parameters during the product life cycle. An EPD requires gathering quantified data for a product with categories of parameters: raw material, energy use, and waste, to name a few.
Also known as sustainable manufacturing, many companies use this strategy to increase growth and competitiveness. With an EPD, manufacturers report comparable, objective
and third-party verified data that show the good and the bad about the environmental performance of their products and services. When developing an EPD, the environmental performance is described by carrying out an LCA of the product.
Most of us have heard of LCAs and are maybe even aware of what they evaluate as far as a "cradle-to-gate/grave" analysis. We can break down LCA's into critical parts:
(1) identifying and quantifying the environmental impact, including the energy used to extract the resource, the emissions, and the waste generated.
(2) Evaluating all potential impacts to the environment from the loads.
(3) Using the data from (1 and 2) to assess options for reducing the environmental impacts.
As the public becomes aware of the environmental impact that packaging and other single-use products have on our health and the health of ecological systems, tools like EPDs and LCAs, and the PCRs they're built from are telling a vital story. We are learning what works for reducing emissions and gaining knowledge on reducing our footprints. For the corrugated industry, these tools tell a story about a renewable resource, the ease at which it is recycled on a large scale or composted, and how we continuously work to make the process even more sustainable.
Collecting life cycle data every few years tracks changes like CO
, NOx, and SOx emissions and drives energy use reductions. Several standards and guides have emerged for making multi-attribute
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol Product Accounting and Reporting Standard
The corrugated industry is constantly working to improve our environmental progress. In June 2017, the industry released its third LCA report, and work is ongoing for the next LCA. Learn more about those industry assessments
Chase Kammerer is the Technical Services Manager at Fibre Box Association (FBA). If you have technical questions about the corrugated industry, you can reach him directly at