Medium density fiberboard (MDF) is a composite panel valued for its homogeneity that allows precision millwork and finishing. In 2012, North American MDF manufacturers produced more than 1.8 billion ft2 (3.3 million m3) of MDF in 20 different facilities. To address the environmental sustainability of wood and wood-based products, the American Wood Council and Canadian Wood Council collaborated with the Composite Panel Association and UL Environment to develop the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for MDF.
An EPD relies on life cycle assessment (LCA) to provide information on the environmental attributes and potential impacts of a product, process or service. EPDs are based on ISO 14025 Environmental labels and declarations – Type III environmental declarations – Principles and procedures. ISO 14025 specifies the principles and requirements for product systems including environmental assessment, product system value assessment, quantification and critical review of eco-efficiency assessment.
EPDs do not indicate that any environmental performance benchmarks are met and there may be impacts that they do not encompass. EDPs can complement, but not replace, tools and certifications that are designed to address the impacts and/or set performance thresholds.
The product profile in the EPD is 1 m3 (equivalent to 565 ft2 at 3/4 in. thick) of MDF. The properties and composition of North American MDF are presented below:
The cradle-to-gate product system for MDF only includes:
- Resource generation and extraction (forest management, logging, planting and roundwood)
- Residue production (transportation, log yard and sawmill)
- MDF manufacturing (transportation, drying and blending, board shaping, finishing and packaging)
Delivery of the product to customers, its use, and end-of-life are excluded from the life cycle.
Impact assessment results
The EPD lists the impact assessment results for combined forest operations and residue production, and then MDF production. The EPD shows that MDF production is the primary driver of impacts (83% of global warning, 90% of acidification, 86% of eutrophication, and 83% of smog potential).
MDF manufacturing also consumes more energy than forest operations and residue production. The EPD shows it consumes 94% of fossil fuel, 91% of nuclear power, and 94% of renewable biomass. One m3 of MDF uses 54% fossil fuel, 6% nuclear power, and 40% renewable energy.
Carbon sequestration is calculated according to the expected life service for MDF and also based on the following end-use applications:
- 36% furniture manufacture
- 30% residential construction and upkeep
- 9% other manufacturing
- 5% nonresidential construction
- 20% other uses
Using the FPInnovations calculator, the carbon sequestered by 1 m3 of MDF at the manufacturing gate is 333.74 kg Carbon = 1223.71kg CO2 eq. After 100 years, carbon sequestered net of biogenic carbon emissions is677.02 kg CO2 eq = -677.02 kg CO2 eq. emission.
The full MDF EPD can be found here.