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Environmental profile analysis of particleboard production: a study in a Pakistani technological condition

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Particleboard is a composite panel comprising small pieces of wood bonded by adhesives. The particleboard industry is growing in Pakistan, but there is little information on the environmental impacts associated with this product. Therefore, the aim of this study was to develop a life cycle assessment of particleboard manufactured in Pakistan and to provide suggestions to improve its environmental profile. The study covers energy use and associated environmental impacts of raw materials and processes during particleboard manufacture in the year 2015–2016.


The study uses a cradle-to-gate (distribution center) life cycle assessment approach. The reference unit for this study was 1.0 m3 of finished, uncoated particleboard. Primary data from the particleboard mill surveys were combined with secondary database information and modeled using CML 2000 v.2.05 methodology and a cumulative exergy demand indicator present in the SimaPro v.8.3 software.

Results and discussion

The results reveal that urea formaldehyde resin, transportation of raw materials, and finished product distribution had the highest contribution to all the environmental impact categories evaluated. Heavy fuel oil and natural gas consumption was responsible for abiotic depletion, photochemical oxidation, ozone layer depletion, and marine aquatic ecotoxicity impacts. The rotary dryer and hot press were the most important sectors in terms of emissions from the manufacturing process. The total cumulative exergy demand required for manufacturing of 1.0 m3 particleboard was 15,632 MJ-eq, with most of the energy usage associated with non-renewable, fossil fuel sources. A sensitivity analysis was conducted for a reduction in the quantity of urea formaldehyde resin consumed and freight transport distances.


The results indicated that reducing the urea formaldehyde resin use and freight distances could greatly decrease environmental impacts. Most of the surveyed mills did not have emissions control systems, and most of the mills exceed the limits set by the National Environmental Quality Standards of Pakistan. Environmental impact improvements might be attained by reducing quantity of urea formaldehyde resin and transportation freight distances and by installing pollution control devices.

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Abiotic depletion


Acidification potential


Cumulative exergy demand


Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials


Eutrophication potential


Freshwater aquatic ecotoxicity


Forestry sector master plan


Gross domestic product


Global warming potential


Hazardous air pollutants


Heavy fuel oil


Human toxicity


Kilogram carbon dioxide equivalents


Life cycle assessment


Life cycle impact assessment


Life cycle inventory


Liquefied petrol gas


Marine-water aquatic ecotoxicity


Mega Joule-equivalents


Ozone layer depletion


Particulate matter


Photochemical oxidation


Regenerative catalytic oxidizers


Regenerative thermal oxidizers


Terrestrial ecotoxicity

UF resin:

Urea formaldehyde resin


Volatile organic hydrocarbons




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The authors would like to thank the responding particleboard mills and their workers from the different industrial zones of Pakistan for their participation in the questionnaire survey and energy audit program. The principal author also pays special thanks to Higher Education Commission, Pakistan for granting scholarship for 6 months research visit under the International Research Support Initiative Programme (IRSIP) to the Center for Renewable Carbon, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Environmental Protection Agency, Pakistan is highly obliged for providing air emission data for particleboard industries. We also gratefully acknowledge three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the contributing entities.

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Correspondence to Riffat Naseem Malik.

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Hussain, M., Malik, R.N. & Taylor, A. Environmental profile analysis of particleboard production: a study in a Pakistani technological condition. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23, 1542–1561 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-017-1385-9

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  • Cumulative exergy demand
  • Environmental impacts
  • Hotspot
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Pakistan
  • Particleboard
  • SimaPro
  • Wood