The 2050 Vision for Materials Management in Oregon is document that guides a sustainable materials management program, focused on understanding and reducing the life cycle environmental impacts of materials, in Oregon. Core to the vision is the concept of Life Cycle Thinking (see image), which is an approach that considers all of the stages of a product or material from the beginning to the end of its useful life. This includes extraction of resources, design and production, packaging and distribution, use and maintenance, reuse, recycling and disposal. While life cycle thinking can be used to evaluate economics or social impacts across these stages, our program focuses on use of this approach to measure environmental impacts through a scientific method called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). At Oregon DEQ we use LCA in various ways, but one key project is to leverage LCA to help local businesses or governments answer questions about the environmental impacts and trade-offs of materials.
How was the Project Started?
In order to achieve the goals of the 2050 Vision, a framework for action comprised of four categories exists. One of these categories is education and information, which is where this project fits. The project started as an approach for direct engagement with stakeholders to both build their capacity of understanding and using life cycle thinking, but also to provide a non-regulatory “service” to help them address real questions that life cycle assessment could help answer, ultimately to help them reduce environmental impacts and conserve resources.
When was the Project Started?
January 2, 2017
When was the Project Completed, or is it Ongoing?
What are the Results to Date?
To date we have provided rapid response LCA services to at least 12 local governments and Oregon businesses, to help them make informed decisions regarding a wide range of materials. Some highlighted topics included:
- Comparison of bottled vs. boxed vs. canned water for Metro
- Compostable vs. reusable bed linens for hotels/AirBnB for the City of Portland
- Coffee packaging for a local Portland Roasting Coffee, comparing bulk to single serve pods (k-cups)
- Literature review for Resource Recycling and OBRC regarding refillable/returnable glass bottles
- Literature review on single use plastic kegs vs reusable steel kegs (this led to a more in depth engagement, see Keg Study SMM project)
- Guidance on the importance of recycled content in the life cycle environmental impacts of paper for the City of Beaverton
- Literature review for Clackamas County on Milk Packaging
- Support for US EPA and Cal EPA staff regarding LCA resources and coursework
What are the Resources Needed, including Time, Cost, Etc.?
Currently we have 3-4 staff members who are versed in life cycle assessment and can provide these type of rapid response services. One staff member is an LCA practitioner, who spends about 10-20% of their time on these services. The costs are just a function of time and salaries.
This is an example of how Materials Management was able to answer a critical business decision for a relevant sector in the State. We worked in collaboration with the industry partner and were able to distribute the findings to all who participated. There is no publication as such available because this was a screening level assessment looking into limited scenarios, using limited data set. We are currently soliciting industry – wine and beer makers in the state – to see if a full ISO compliant study is needed for the industries, which will involve gathering more data to represent wider real world cases, and the final study would be peer-reviewed for ISO compliance prior to publication.
- Peter Canepa
- LCA Specialist
- Oregon Department of Environmental Quality