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Environmental Product Declarations of the European Plastics Manufacturers

Low density polyethylene (LDPE)

This Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is based
upon life cycle inventory (LCI) data from PlasticsEuropes
Eco-profile programme. It has been prepared according to
ISO 14025 and PlasticsEuropes Product Category Rules
(PCR) for Uncompounded Polymer Resins and Reactive
Polymer Precursors (June 2006). EPDs provide environ-
mental performance data, but no information on the
economic and social aspects which would be necessary for
a complete sustainability assessment. Furthermore, they MPa and temperatures above the polymer melting point of
do not imply a value judgment between environmental up to 300C, the monomer/polymer mixture can act as
a polymerisation medium. This technology is typical for LDPE
and LDPE co-polymers production. The obtained polymer
This EPD describes the production of the LDPE polymer
can be mixed with additives and is extruded into pellets.
from cradle to gate (from crude oil extraction to pellets
coming out the manufacturing plant). It is important to Data sources and allocation
note that comparisons cannot be made on the level of All data refer to a European industry average (reference
the polymer material alone: it is necessary to consider year 2005); all calculations were updated in 2006.
the full life cycle of an application in order to compare the PlasticsEuropes member companies supplied information
performance of different materials and the effects of on the production of hydrocarbon precursors. Information
relevant life cycle parameters. This EPD is intended to be on the production of fuels, energy and the main hydrocar-
used by member companies, to support product- bon resources was derived from the reports of the
orientated environmental management; by users of International Energy Agency. Data for ancillary operations
plastics as a building block of life cycle assessment (LCA) and transport were obtained from other manufacturers
studies of individual products; and by other interested and operators as well as publicly available LCI databases.
parties as a source of life cycle information. Mass allocation was used for multi-output processes.
Vertical averaging was performed to take into account
company- and site-specific production routes and to
Description of the product and the protect confidentiality.
production process Use phase and end-of-life management
This EPD is designed for low density polyethylene (LDPE).
Benefits of LDPE: Because of its versatility (large range of
LDPE is part of the polyolefins family. The LDPE and LLDPE
density, molecular weight (MW) and MW distribution, and
volumes in 2007 account for 35% (roughly 7.8 million
chemical inertness), LDPE remains a popular plastic in use
tonnes per year) of Western Europes total polyolefins
today. LDPE resins can be tailored to be used in many
production which is 22.1 million tonnes/year. Polyolefins
represent 40% of total plastics production in Western applications such as film applications (e.g. collation
Europe, which is 55 million tonnes/year. The functional shrink film, carrier bags, agricultural film), pharmaceutical
unit, to which all data given in this EPD refers to, is 1kg of packaging, liquid paper board coatings, electrical cable
LDPE polymer. coatings, injection moulding parts, pipes, etc.
For responsible end-of-life management, PlasticsEurope
Production process
recommends recycling (whether mechanical or feedstock)
LDPE is a polyethylene with a density < 940 kg/m, as far as economically feasible and environmentally
produced by a high pressure process, and is therefore sensible. Alternatively, for residual streams energy
often referred to as high pressure polyethylene.
recovery can be conducted in special designed plants.
Polyolefins are produced from olefin (alkene) monomers
because the olefins contain a reactive double bond. The In LCA studies, credits for recovered products should be
starting material, ethylene, is called the monomer and the awarded on the basis of substituted virgin materials,
final product consisting of many thousands of bound if functionally equivalent.
ethylene units is called the polymer. Co-monomers (such
as vinyl acetate, butyl acetate, methyl methacrylate) are Environmental performance
used to control the density and other physical properties.
The main technique which is used for the production of The tables below show the environmental performance in-
LDPE: Autoclave and tubular high pressure technology: dicators associated with the production of 1 kg of low den-
When the monomer is held at high pressures of up to 300 sity polyethylene (LDPE).
Input parameters
Additional environmental and
Indicator Unit Value
health information
Non-renewable materials
Minerals g 4.2 LDPE is a well recognized material in extrusion coating for
Fossil fuels g 1,591.3 multilayer packaging providing sealability, adhesion and
Uranium g 0.009 moisture protection.
Renewable materials (biomass) g 10.787 Ethylene, the monomer of LDPE, can be produced from a
Water use1) g 2,934 petrochemical source or from alternative sources like
Non-renewable energy resources2) syngas and biomass
for energy MJ 25.3 LCA is the preferred tool to analyse and conclude about all
for feedstock MJ 51.6 environmental parameters for a specific LDPE application.
Renewable energy resources
(biomass)2) Additional technical information
for energy MJ 1.2
for feedstock MJ 0 Due to its unique properties, LDPE is used in critical
applications where stress cracking resistance is an issue,
This indicator comprises only process water. Cooling
such as wire and cable.
water is not included.
Calculated as upper heating value (UHV). LDPE has a high intrinsic thermal stability and therefore
requires a minimum amount or even no stabilizers at all.
Output parameters
LDPE maintains its physical and mechanical properties
Indicator Unit Value after recycling and is increasingly being recycled in several
European schemes.
GWP kg CO2 eq 2.13
ODP g CFC-11 eq n/a3)
AP g SO2 eq 7.74
Additional economic information
POCP g Ethene eq 1.19
LDPE allows significant cost savings in greenhouse
NP g PO4 eq 0.50 applications and provides a higher efficiency of harvest
Dust/particulate matter g PM10 0.69
LDPE in blown film applications allow the reduction of
Total particulate matter g 0.70
energy addition due to lowering the processing
Waste temperatures and conditions (e.g. pressure).
Non-hazardous kg 0.034
Foamed LDPE is used in insulation applications,
Hazardous kg 0.005 providing significant energy savings.
Relevant LCI entries are below quantification limit.
Company/Association For copies of this EPD, for the underlying LCI data (eco-
profile), and for additional information, please refer to
Polyolefins Group, PlasticsEurope
Avenue E van Nieuwenhuyse 4, Box 3
B1160 Brussels, Belgium References
Tel.: +32 (2) 675 32 97, Fax: +32 (2) 675 39 35
E-mail: Product photographs on cover with kind permission by
Programme manager
PlasticsEurope: Annual Report 2007, Safeguarding the
Five Winds International planet by reaching out. Brussels, 2007.
This Environmental Product Declaration has been PlasticsEurope: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE).
reviewed by Five Winds International. It is approved Eco-profiles of the European Plastics Industry. Brussels,
according to the Product Category Rules PCR 2006-06 for March 2005.
Uncompounded Polymer Resins and Reactive Polymer PlasticsEurope: Product Category Rules (PCR) for
Precursors and ISO FDIS 14025. Uncompounded Polymer Resins and Reactive Polymer
Registration number: PlasticsEurope-2008-0006; Precursors. Brussels, June 2006.
validation expires on 31 December 2011.
ISO FDIS 14025: Environmental Labels and Declarations
Programme owner TypeIII Environmental Declarations. Geneva, 2005.
European Commission (EC): IPPC Reference Document on
Avenue E van Nieuwenhuyse 4, Box 3 Best Available Techniques in the Production of Polymers.
B1160 Brussels, Belgium Sevilla, October 2006.
Tel.: +32 (2) 675 32 97, Fax: +32 (2) 675 39 35

Acidification potential, AP An environmental impact Low density polyethylene, LDPE A high-pressure poly-
category (acid rain). Emissions (e.g. sulphur oxides, ni- ethylene with a density < 940 kg/m . Thermoplastic poly-
trous oxides, ammonia) from transport, energy genera- mers consisting of bound ethylene units (C2H4)
tion, combustion processes, and agriculture cause acidity Nutrification potential, NP An environmental impact cat-
of rainwater and thus damage to woodlands, lakes and egory (over-fertilisation). Emissions such as phosphate,
buildings. Reference substance: sulphur dioxide. nitrate, nitrous oxides, and ammonia from transport, energy
Environmental product declaration, EPD A standardised generation, agriculture (fertilisers) and wastewater increase
method (ISO 14025) of communicating the environmental the growth of aquatic plants and can produce algae blooms
performance of a product or service based on LCA data. that consume the oxygen in water and thus smother other
Global warming potential, GWP An environmental im- aquatic life. This is called eutrophication and causes dam-
pact category (greenhouse effect). Energy from the sun ages to rivers, lakes, plants, and fish. Reference substance:
drives the earths weather and climate, and heats the phosphate.
earths surface. In turn, the earth radiates energy back into Ozone depletion potential, ODP An environmental im-
space. Atmospheric greenhouse gases (water vapour, car- pact category (ozone hole). The index ODP is calculated
bon dioxide, and other gases) are influencing the energy as the contribution to the breakdown of the ozone layer that
balance in a way that leads to an increased average tem- would result from the emission of 1kg of the substance in
perature on earths surface. Problems arise when the at- question in relation to the emission of 1kg of CFC-11 as a ref-
mospheric concentration of greenhouse gases increases erence substance.
due to the man-made (or anthropogenic) greenhouse ef- Photochemical ozone creation potential, POCP An envi-
fect: this additional greenhouse effect caused by human ac- ronmental impact category (summer smog). The index
tivities may further increase the average global used to translate the level of emissions of various gases into
temperature. The index GWP is calculated as a multiple a common measure to compare their contributions to the
equivalent of the absorption due to the substance in ques- change of ground-level ozone concentration. The index
tion in relation to the emission of 1kg of carbon dioxide, POCP is calculated as the contribution to ozone formation
the reference substance, over 100years. close to the ground due the substance in question in rela-
Life cycle assessment, LCA A standardised management tion to the emission of 1kg of ethene as a reference sub-
tool (ISO 1404044) for appraising and quantifying the total stance.
environment impact of products or activities over their en- Product category rules, PCR A set of rules for the prepa-
tire life cycle of particular materials, processes, products, ration of LCA and EPD within a functionally defined class of
technologies, services or activities. products. A PCR document is a necessary component of any
Type III Environmental Declaration programme (ISO 14025).

November 2008