Environmental Impact Of Re-Used Furniture
Life Cycle Assessment calculation for re-use and remanufacturing situations

Life-long adaptation of products is considered to be the most sustainable way to prevent waste. This is the logic behind assessing design re-use and remanufacturing possibilities. However, what is the actual benefit in terms of environmental impact? This question has been resolved with research conducted during the Use-It-Wisely project through the development of a Circular Life Cycle Assessment (hereinafter C-LCA). The result: a tool that measures the environmental impact of initial production and all adjustments during the lifetime of a piece of furniture. This may then be compared to linear production and use for similar products.

Life Cycle Assessment Calculation

Calculating environmental impact over the years has become an industry standard using Life Cycle Assessment tools. These tools are widely used and provide an industry-accepted way of quantifying environmental impact. In the traditional tool the process of TAKE-MAKE-WASTE is calculated and can be expressed in various units, for example CO2 or financial costs (shadow costs). One of Use-It-Wisely’s aims was to research methods and tools which support the adaptation of a product’s lifecycle. As there are no standard methods to measure the environmental impact of adaptations, TNO and Gispen collaborated to develop a LCA tool which incorporates adaptation scenarios.

Scenarios and Structure

The standard LCA database structure has been adapted by Use-It-Wisely researchers to enable various reuse and remake scenarios. Adaptation to extend a product’s life can be realised in various ways, for example by means of maintenance, repair or remanufacturing. The C-LCA tool creates the possibility to assign materials and processes to the following scenarios:

  • Manufacture: the initial production process
  • Clean and re-use: used for cleaning and simple repair efforts
  • Revitalisation: used for major adjustments and remanufacturing

By means of a pre-programmed data input sheet a breakdown of product data can be added into the calculation tool. In this input sheet it is required to indicate for which scenario the data needs to be used. Data entry is made efficient due to the modular structure of the data input sheets, each module can be used in various product configurations. Hence, various product configurations can be easily calculated and compared.

Taking responsibility

Once all information is entered into the tool the database calculates the environmental impact of a particular piece of furniture expressed in CO2 or in costs. For example, linear use of a desk versus a re-made desk can be calculated in CO2. The comparison supports the end user and Gispen in making sustainable choices. In one graph it becomes clear if it is more sensible from an environmental point of view to opt for a new production product or a remade product. Furthermore, it becomes clear which elements needs attention to prevent further pollution.

The C-LCA tool creates the possibility to act responsibly and to be accountable for the choices we make in adapting furniture throughout its lifetime. Transparency with regard to our own actions and at the same time make the choices comprehensible for the end user. That’s the biggest added value of the C-LCA and therefore the research completed by Use-It-Wisely participants.

For more information

To learn more about the re-used furniture and the environment, please contact Tim Bosch at tim.bosch@tno.nl