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Sustainability 2013, 5(11), 4546-4560; doi:10.3390/su5114546
Article

Tackling the Downcycling Issue—A Revised Approach to Value-Corrected Substitution in Life Cycle Assessment of Aluminum (VCS 2.0)

1,*  and 2
1 PE International, Inc., 344 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116, USA 2 PE International AG, Hauptstraße 111-113, Leinfelden-Echterdingen 70711, Germany
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 24 June 2013 / Revised: 12 September 2013 / Accepted: 4 October 2013 / Published: 25 October 2013
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Abstract

For some metals, downcycling appears when scrap is polluted with undesirable elements or mixed with lower quality scrap grades in a way that the material displays a change in inherent properties when recycled. The article recommends the use of different scrap class prices instead of a solitary secondary alloy price to represent the level of downcycling inflicted on aluminum over a product’s life cycle. The price ratio between scrap price and primary aluminum price is shown to be stable across all available scrap classes for the years 2007–2010. While the revised approach to value-corrected substitution (VCS) puts a stronger emphasis on the creation of high-quality scrap by penalizing its pollution more than the original version, its key limitation is the correct identification of the appropriate point of substitution along the scrap value chain. If relevant sorting or pre-treatment steps are omitted, the substitution factor would be overcorrected, which is why it is crucial to establish the scrap value right before the scrap is either mixed with scraps from other product systems or right before it enters the remelting step.
Keywords: End-of-Life; allocation; life cycle inventory (LCI); material selection; design for environment (DfE); environmental decision making End-of-Life; allocation; life cycle inventory (LCI); material selection; design for environment (DfE); environmental decision making
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Koffler, C.; Florin, J. Tackling the Downcycling Issue—A Revised Approach to Value-Corrected Substitution in Life Cycle Assessment of Aluminum (VCS 2.0). Sustainability 2013, 5, 4546-4560.

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