New Life Cycle Assessment Study Shows Replacing Wood Utility Poles with Steel Significantly Lowers Key Environmental Impacts

WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 7, 2013 – A detailed life cycle assessment (LCA) study commissioned by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), finds that when comparing overall environmental performance, galvanized steel utility poles outperform wood poles in key environmental measures. The peer-reviewed study, conducted in compliance with international LCA standards (ISO-14040-series), is the most comprehensive environmental assessment of its kind to date, bringing a new level of understanding to the comparative performance of these two material choices.

The study compared the use of galvanized steel and wood utility poles in the southeastern United States over a 40-year time period. Among its findings, the study showed that replacing wood utility poles with galvanized steel will likely result in lower levels of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions associated with global climate change, a lower burden on critical energy resources, reduced impacts on the habitats of many threatened and endangered species, and reduced impacts associated with hazardous emissions and wastes.

“The fact that the steel pole option has relatively lower greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on energy resources reflects the greater durability of steel poles as compared to their wood pole counterparts,” said Lawrence W. Kavanagh, president of SMDI.

The study was conducted by SCS Global Services, a global leader in third-party environmental and sustainability certification, auditing, testing and standards development for nearly 30 years. SCS is a Certified B Corporation™, reflecting its commitment to socially and environmentally responsible business practice.

October 2013

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