Life cycle assessment of bioethanol-based PVC

Part 1: Attributional approach


Correspondence to: Jo Dewulf. Coupure Links, 653 – Blok B – 9000 Gent, Belgium. E-mail:


Literature suggests that depletion of non-renewable resources is the most concerning environmental impact category in the life cycle of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC), mainly due to the fossil feedstock for ethylene. Therefore, bioethanol is considered as another source for ethylene in the PVC production chain. The objective of this review was to perform a cradle-to-gate attributional life cycle assessment (LCA) of bioethanol-based PVC resin. We created two scenarios for bioethanol-based PVC (2010 and 2018), and compared them with fossil-based PVC. We used primary data from Solvay S.A. and secondary data from the literature, for the life cycle inventory. For the impact assessment, we used several midpoint indicators and the ReCiPe Endpoint H/A. At midpoint level, bioethanol-based PVC from 2010 and 2018 presented better results than fossil-based PVC for non-renewable resource use (13.8, 13.4, and 44.8 MJex/kg of PVC resin, respectively) and climate change (−0.09, –0.19, and 1.52 kg CO2eq/kg of PVC resin, respectively), but worse results for other environmental impact categories (e.g. ecotoxicity). At endpoint level, the two bioethanol-based PVC scenarios showed better results overall than fossil-based PVC (up to 66% lower). Within the bioethanol-based PVC scenarios, the results for 2018 were better than for 2010 (up to 43% lower for the endpoint single score results) corroborating that higher efficiency (at the crop field and bioethanol production) and reduction of burnt harvest ought to reduce environmental impacts. Even though bioethanol-based PVC had better results in comparison to fossil-based, improvements should be sought to minimize other environmental impact categories, for example, biodiversity and ecotoxicity. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd