Environmental life cycle assessment to enhance the sustainability of the timber sector in Ghana

J.F. Eshun

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

The timber sector, i.e. forestry and timber industry, is an important industry in Ghana. It provides a significant contribution to Ghana’s foreign exchange earnings through wood products export, provides jobs and incomes for numerous local economies and communities. The timber production in Ghana is associated with an increasing environmental burden in terms of use of resources, and production of emissions and waste. The overall objective of this thesis was to quantify the environmental performance of the sector and to explore the possible options and strategies to sustain and improve the environmental performance of the timber sector in Ghana. To achieve this objective, the following research questions are addressed in successive chapters: (1) Is the timber sector in Ghana sustainable?, (2) What is the most dominant environmental pressure for the five major production lines in the Ghanaian timber industry, and what is the influence of the choice of functional unit?, (3) What does the most dominant environmental pressure contribute to the life cycle impact of the timber sector in Ghana?, and (4) Which potentials improvement options and strategies are available for reducing the major environmental impact in the timber sector in Ghana?

The research for question 1 identified a sustainability gap that has been created as a result of aggressive competition between the informal and formal timber sectors for raw material supply. The subsequent life cycle assessment (LCA), in response to research question 2 and 3, showed  land use and wood waste as the most dominant environmental pressure for five major production lines (air dried lumber, kiln dried lumber, plywood, veneer and furniture parts). Land use and wood waste pressures will eventually lead to complete deforestation in the year 2025 if major policies are not implemented. The LCA results were sensitive to the choice of the functional unit (1m3, 1kg and 1euro). The money-based functional unit, that  was seen as more appropriate, favors the value-added products. This holds a promising future in terms of sustainability for the timber industry in Ghana. The impact assessment results showed a strong correlation between wood waste and land use as proxy for biodiversity loss, and also positive correlations between wood waste and the other five impacts results. Wood waste production was concluded as a major driving force for biodiversity loss, and a sufficiently good single indicator for all other environmental impact in the timber sector of Ghana. The research for question 4 showed that combining technological changes, good operational practices and recycling measures could reduce wood waste by approximately 50%.

This thesis presents a first step in exploring the possible options and strategies to sustain and improve the environmental performance of the timber sector in Ghana. The understanding of the link between sustainability and environmental assessment can help to design and implement good and working sustainability policies in Africa. The presented research therefore contributes to the development of integrated policy support approaches, which aim at strengthening the sustainable management of the timber sector in Ghana. This research may serve as a guide for policy-makers as well as for companies in elaborating measures to sustain and reduce environmental impacts in terms of possible future developments in the timber sector in Africa and particularly Ghana.

 

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Leemans, Rik, Promotor
  • Potting, Jose, Co-promotor
Award date20 Feb 2012
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789461732118
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2012

Keywords

  • timber production
  • forest products industries
  • life cycle assessment
  • sustainability
  • environmental impact
  • logging
  • ghana

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