LCA of the timber sector in Ghana: preliminary life cycle impact assessment (LCIA)

J.F. Eshun, J. Potting, R. Leemans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose - Most life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) approaches in life cycle assessment (LCA) are developed for western countries. Their LCIA approaches and characterization methodologies for different impact categories may not be necessarily relevant to African environmental conditions and particularly not for the timber sector in Ghana. This study reviews the relevance of existing impact categories and LCIA approaches, and uses the most relevant for the timber sector of Ghana. Materials and methods - The study reviewed 23 life cycle inventories (LCIs) and LCAs on forestry, timber, and wood products for relevant impact categories and LCIA approaches for their relevance to the specific conditions in Ghana. This study uses an earlier LCI study of the timber industry as a starting point for an additional LCIA. We next performed a correlation and regression analysis to learn whether wood wastes may function as a reasonable single indicator for land use as proxy for biodiversity loss and the other impact categories. Results and discussion - The literature review shows that no LCI or LCA studies were developed for Africa or the tropics. The LCIA approaches in the reviewed LCAs are indeed shown to take their basis in the environmental problems in western countries and characterization methodologies relating to how these problems manifest themselves in the western world. Characterization methodologies for different impact categories in CML-2000 and other LCIA approaches may not be necessarily relevant to African tropical environmental conditions and particularly not for the timber sector in Ghana. This situation hampers the reliability of our LCIA and points to a serious research gap in LCIA development in general. We applied the scientifically well-recognized CML 2000 to the earlier LCI results and characterized the preliminary selected impact categories of global warming, acidification, eutrophication, photochemical oxidant formation, and human toxicity. The correlation analysis indicated that wood waste is indeed strongly correlated with land use as proxy for biodiversity loss and also positively correlated with the other five potential impact results. It can be concluded that wood waste production is a major driving force for biodiversity loss and a sufficiently good single indicator for all other environmental performance indicators in the timber sector of Ghana. Conclusions - This study and the previous LCI paper are pioneering a field not yet explored, since the correct environmental performance indicators are not yet developed or adapted to tropical conditions. The development of LCIA approaches in the tropics may be the start of a never-ending journey in LCA research in Africa, particularly Ghana.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-638
JournalThe International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Volume16
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • land-use impact
  • wood wastes
  • inventory
  • biodiversity
  • methodology
  • products
  • industry

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