SWEETWOODS and the first EPD on lignin with the International EPD System

3 Agosto 2023

We are glad to communicate that the SWEETWOODS project, financed by the European programme Horizon 2020, has obtained the first EPD on lignin (LIGNOVAᵀᴹ Crude) in the International EPD System. We gladly contributed to the achievement of such a milestone on a path still in the making.

2B Srl is responsible for life cycle sustainability assessment within the project framework. It includes life cycle assessment (LCA), life cycle costing (LCC) and Social LCA (S-LCA) to support the sustainability approach of the whole project. To discover more on our role within the project consortium, you can refer to this article.

In the traditional wood industry, only a limited part of raw materials is transformed into valuable products. In the SWEETWOODS project, instead, the goal is to convert low-value hardwood waste, which would otherwise be allocated to energy recovery, into high-quality intermediate components such as sugars and lignin (LIGNOVAᵀᴹ Crude). These are extremely versatile products that can be used in a variety of industries, from chemicals to construction. Some concrete applications of lignin are dealt with here.

Fibenol, SWEETWOODS project leader, manages the flagship plant which will be fully operating by the end of summer 2023. The annual production capacity will be around 6 500 t/a of different lignin grades and 20 000 t/a of cellulosic wood sugars. Although it has not yet entered full operation, the flagship plant already boasts hundreds of partners around the world. The EPD is a useful tool to consolidate the product positioning in the market. It is a voluntary document, containing transparent, verified and comparable information about the environmental impact of products along their life cycle.

During the verification phase of the EPD document no nonconformities were found, reflecting the intensive and efficient cooperation among the parties involved. The environmental declaration is in line with the PCR 2021:03 Basic chemicals (version 1.1), the standard ISO 14040-44 on LCA and the standard ISO 14025 on Environmental Labels and Declarations – Ecolabel type III. The document reports the environmental results obtained by lignin (LIGNOVAᵀᴹ Crude) according to the “cradle to grave” LCA study. Moreover, the EPD document includes results about wood sugars, since they are the co-products obtained by the same fractionation process of the lignin. The use phase is excluded because these products have many applications and are employed in other production processes. The product end-of-life is calculated considering only its carbon content and associated emissions in order to balance biogenic carbon dioxide emissions.

The results published in the EPD will be presented and discussed in the 11th International Conference on Life Cycle Management, which will be hosted in Lille (France) from September 6th till 8th. 2B Srl will participate in the event to share the results.