This is a great question but unfortunately the answer is now simple. In general we would really encourage stewardship programs and other environmental strategies that manufacturers pursue such as:
– Recycled content
– Biogenic materials
– Circular economy principles
Unfortunately however, accounting for these strategies in an LCA without knowing all of the product’s impacts is akin to cherry picking. The best analogy to describe the risk is to think of food labels. Many products advertise “Low Fat” on the front of the packet. However, the nutrition label on the back may highlight that the product is high in sugar. It’s not until you read the nutrition label and understand the balance of information that you can make a truly informed decision on the nutritional value of the product. The food industry is full of these types of claims. “High in fiber”, “No Added Sugar”, “Whole Grain”, “No Artificial Ingredients”, “Natural Goodness” and the list goes on. The construction product manufacturing industry is also awash with similar claims. That is not to say that they are not true, we just don’t understand the net benefit (or impact) of these strategies.
The only clear answer to this is to ask the product manufacturers for an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). This is the equivalent of a nutrition label but for environmental information. Here’s a few other sources of info regarding EPDs:
Can materials manufacturers load their products into eToolLCD?
So our recommendation is to be very wary trying to model a product claim on it’s own. Realistically, the only way of getting certainty on the net environmental performance of a product is seek an EPD.