The voestalpine approach to holistic, ecological product evaluation is certainly not limited to determining the environmentally relevant factors during the production and use phases of flat steel products, nor to life cycle assessments at the Linz site. Other divisions are also interested in using this tool to determine the environmental impact of production and products. And this approach can surely lead to unexpected results.
leova® vineyard post
This can be seen with the leova® steel post from voestalpine Krems GmbH. This traditional product has been used in vineyards for over 50 years and often over a very long timeframe. The life cycle for competing products made of wood or concrete can definitely be much shorter, but this is not the only reason a comparative LCA has paid off. According to Stefan Schuster from Strategic Environmental Management at voestalpine AG, “The driving factor was the Austrian Winegrowers’ Association’s certification system for sustainable viticulture, and the support posts in the vineyard were identified as a hotspot from an ecological point of view.”
"We took this as an opportunity to conduct an LCA screening study for various materials for trellis post systems. We found that the picture changes when you take into account the end of life."
If you compare the end of life of different materials, waste wood, for example, is mainly incinerated and concrete is often down-cycled, i.e. the quality after recycling is reduced. Steel on the other hand can usually be recycled when products such as vineyard posts reach the end of their life. “The fact that steel has clear advantages was an important finding of this study, which is why we always emphasize that the evaluation of the environmental effects of products invariably requires a holistic approach.”
End of life (EOL) comparison for different materials.
"leova® is long-lasting like concrete and as flexible as wood. If you consider its entire life cycle, leova® has the best cost-benefit ratio compared to alternatives."
“leova® is long-lasting like concrete and as flexible as wood. If you consider its entire life cycle, leova® has the best cost-benefit ratio compared to alternatives.”
Josef Lamplmayr, Managing Director, voestalpine Krems GmbH
voestalpine water footprint
A holistic approach to determining environmental impact is useful for more than evaluating and comparing the ecological performance of products. A water footprint study (based on a holistic LCA approach) of voestalpine Stahl GmbH at the Linz location yielded insights that provided the impetus to roll out the evaluation to other divisions with large production sites.
"We have determined the ‘Blue Water Consumption’ and the ‘Water Scarcity Footprint’, which says something about the regional aspect and about whether water use where production is located has any significant hydrological effect."
It turned out that the “Blue Water Consumption” at the Linz production site is actually only 1.69 m³ per ton of steel. “And even when the upstream—including energy and raw material production and delivery—is taken into consideration, Linz is only at around 4 m³ per ton. Most of the water we take from the Danube is treated and returned after use. In terms of water availability, the impact of production at the Linz location is very small. We are also taking this as an opportunity to create a water footprint for the entire Group, which will be checked and verified by independent third parties.”