Life Cycle Assessment
Using a Business Tool to Identify Total Environmental Impacts
Stages of a Product's Life Cycle
Completed LCA Projects
Impacts of the Used Oil Management System
Three management methods are employed to manage the 120 million gallons of used oils collected in California each year: re-refining back to lubricating oils, distillation to clean ship fuels and an asphalt product, and combustion as fuel. In 2005, more than 70 million gallons of used oil were marketed as heavy fuel oil without treatment. Some of this was burned in combustion systems with limited pollution controls. The results of an environmental life cycle assessment show that heavy metal air emissions from used oil fuel far exceed emissions from other used oil management methods. In fact the net zinc, copper, cadmium, and lead emissions to air from used oil combustion may be equal to emissions from all of California's large stationary sources combined (based on EPA-TRI). Because of heavy metal emissions, combustion of used oil as fuel may cause 100 times the environmental impact of used oil re-refining or distillation (see Environmental Assessment of Used Oil Management Methods in Environmental Science and Technology vol. 38, No. 2).
At their end of useful life, a majority of automobiles and appliances are shredded to recover iron, steel, and non-ferrous metals. The remaining waste consisting of glass, plastics, carpet, and dirt is called shredder residue. About 360,000 tons of shredder residue are generated each year in California.
For more information on these projects, refer to the following:
Life cycle assessment tools were used to evaluate the impacts of alternatives to lead wheel weights currently being used in California. The comparative assessment described in this report evaluates certain impacts associated with lead, steel, and zinc alloy wheel weights to identify regrettable substitutions or burden shifting as a result of the lead wheel weight ban (see http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/PollutionPrevention/ToxicsInProducts/leadwheelweights.cfm for more information). Metal production inventories were used to compare the impacts of the different wheel weight formulations and to understand the processes contributing to adverse impacts. Impacts from weight losses during use were also evaluated to compare the environmental and human health trade-off. Based on the assumptions and considerations outlined in the report, lead or zinc wheel weights lost on the roadway have much higher potential impacts to human health or the environment compared to steel. The substitution of zinc for lead weights poses a burden shift as the losses during use are more harmful to the environment than lead. Considering the assumptions made, the impacts from lead or zinc based wheel weight losses to roadways greatly exceed their manufacturing impacts. Therefore, steel appears to be the preferred alternative for clip-on weights due to its comparatively low toxicity and reasonable manufacturing impacts. The loss rate for adhesive weights (which represent a minor fraction of the current market) is not known but is likely similar across each weight metal type. Nonetheless, the loss rate for zinc adhesive weights would need to be two orders in magnitude lower than that of steel weights for the loss (during use) impacts to become comparable to those of primary metal acquisition and weight manufacturing for steel weights. Lower environmental and human health impacts coupled with the propensity for steel wheel weights to be made from recycled material appears to position steel wheel weights to be the best overall alternative.
Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
Environment + Price + Performance
California's Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Task Force provides state agencies with information and assistance regarding environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP). EPP is the procurement of goods and services that have a reduced effect on human health and the environment when compared with competing goods and services. This comparison takes into account the "cradle to grave" or "cradle to cradle" life cycle of a product -- from the acquisition of raw materials, processing, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, maintenance, disposal, energy efficiency, product performance, safety, and cost.
The EPP Task Force includes several working groups covering areas such as vehicle fleets, cleaning products, integrated pest management, historic buildings, and releasable classrooms. Technology Development Branch staff supports the State's EPP efforts by contributing its expertise in pollution prevention and life cycle assessment to the Task Force Working Groups, focusing on automotive and truck fleet management, sustainable building, electronic equipment procurement, and statewide master contracts.
For more information on EPP, use the following links that will exit the DTSC Web site.