Standardization News

Nutrition Labels for Products

Cicely Enright

by Cicely Enright

In today's competitive marketplace, providing a verified EPD can help your product stand out as more sustainable. Here's how to get it done.

You know your product is environmentally friendly. It's more sustainable because your company has reduced resource use and improved the product's recyclability. There's a way to show that: take advantage of the ASTM International Environmental Product Declarations Program.

Consider a nutrition label and how it details calories, cholesterol, protein, vitamins and more. That provides key information about the food's impact on you. Likewise, an EPD provides key information about a product's impact on the environment.

"I can make head to head comparisons this way, such as one yard of concrete to another," says Richard Szecsy, Ph.D., P.E., president of the Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, Austin, Texas, and a long-time member of ASTM Committee C09 on Concrete and Concrete Aggregates.

Szecsy suggests that if you're thinking about the EPD development process, "Look at what it means for your business and your customers." EPDs signify a more environmentally friendly product as well as one that potentially reduces costs. They provide a way to compare different products that are used for the same purpose.

Using the Process

ASTM International is an EPD program operator, compliant with the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 14025, Environmental Labels and Declaration. It can tap into technical resources and ensure that impacted stakeholders will be part of the process.

When you embark on the process, ASTM will be there to help you every step of the way, with electronic tools and staff support as well as access to the necessary expertise. "We have the tools to quantify sustainability and the involvement of life cycle assessment experts," says Chris Surak, ASTM director of certification programs.

The first step is to develop product category rules. Before starting PCRs, ASTM staff conducts a literature search to find out if any already exist. If there are none, staff gathers a group from manufacturers, industry experts, trade associations and other interested people to develop the PCRs.

ASTM, in conjunction with stakeholders, defines the scope of products and what characteristics will be measured. Whatever is relevant and necessary becomes part of the PCR document, from raw material use to recycling, according to Surak.

Once the PCR is developed, it is made available for public review. Following that review and any changes, a third party panel of experts comprising environmental and product experts also reviews the document.

The product data detailed in the PCR is gathered and used to produce a life cycle assessment, from resource extraction to disposal, that quantifies its environmental impact.

Individual manufacturers or industry groups can then use the information in the PCR and the life cycle assessment to develop their EPD. The EPD provides information about several product attributes, including primary energy usage, global warming potential, acidification potential, eutrophication potential and ozone depletion potential.

ASTM verifies the EPD to ensure that it conforms to the PCR and life cycle assessment. Both the PCR and EPD are publicly available; you can find existing ones at the Web address below.

To learn more, check the EPD Web pages, or contact Chris Surak, ASTM director of certification programs (tel +1.610.832.9711).

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