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The effect of compact formulations on the environmental profile of Northern European granular laundry detergents Part II: Life Cycle assessment

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The environmental profile of laundry detergents at three time points (1988, 1992, and 1998) were compared on the basis of two distinct, complementary approaches: Environmental Risk Assessment (ERA) and Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA). The results are presented in this paper and its accompanying paper in this issue (Part I: Product Environmental Risk Assessment). Life-Cycle Inventory (LCI) data from The Netherlands and Sweden were used for this retrospective analysis. The chosen time period studied (1988 - 1998) spans significant, multiple formulation and process change in laundry detergents, including the introduction of compact, then super-compact, granular detergents. Cradle-to-Gate LCAs based on 1 kg of finished product (from raw material supply to packaged finished product leaving the suppliers site) revealed no significant differences between the products themselves, as manufactured between 1988, 1992 and 1998. Cradle-to-Grave LCAs based on 1000 wash cycles (from raw material supply to disposal of used product) indicated that the consumption of raw materials and energy, as well as environmental emissions (air, water and solid waste), decreased after the introduction of compact detergents in 1988. The LCAs revealed that a number of category indicator values decreased (for acidification, aquatic toxicity greenhouse effects, eutrophication, toxicity, ozone depletion and smog). Furthermore, the results of the LCAs support the conclusion that the differences between The Netherlands and Sweden are due to (1) differences in electrical generation between the countries, (2) differences in energy consumption during consumer use, (3) differences in detergent dosage per wash and (4) differences in the wastewater treatment infrastructure.

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Correspondence to Erwan Saouter.

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Saouter, E., van Hoof, G., Feijtel, T.C.J. et al. The effect of compact formulations on the environmental profile of Northern European granular laundry detergents Part II: Life Cycle assessment. Int J LCA 7, 27–38 (2002).

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