Lifecycle assessments (LCA) are a staple tool used to evaluate the carbon footprint of products and services. They assessed the cradle-to-grave operation of each individual product and look at the complete system of operations from the moment a natural resource is extracted from the ground until the point it returns there or is incinerated.
But what if I told you that the way you are using Lifecycle Assessments disadvantage the products you should actually be looking for?
Sounds odd right? Been through Carbon literacy or Environmental Management training? You’ll even likely think that’s wrong. But hear me out…
Circular Economies are a solution that ensures humans do not extract natural resource is but continues to use resources they already have extracted time and time again.
Take one of the new PP plastic forks. This is made out of food-grade polypropylene. A life cycle assessment of this fork shows it has a footprint of 31g of CO2 from cradle-to-grave. But what if it was run through a circular economy?
31g of CO2!
Woah! Why? Haven't we been told that circular economies are the silver bullet? So why is the footprint exactly the same?
The answer becomes clear when you look at the second fork you take. Circular economies don't prevent the first-generation footprint. They prevent every subsequent generation. You don't have to extract oil and you use only 60% of the energy to remanufacture it and no extraction energy. It is this second generation that starts the savings ball rolling.
The second generation of our plastic fork sees the 31 grams come down to 9g in the second generation. However, you need a second fork in ye olde world. Meaning the total footprint of the two forks you have now used, is 62g against the 40g of the once-recycled fork. Recycle it a third time and the total is now 93g v 49g. And this continues to make savings the more it is used. Even as a bulking agent.
Naturally, if you do this where you generate the waste, then there's no transit to any manufacturing facility. Of course, if you use automatic you get there quicker and save much more.
But we would say that! ;)
The moral of this story is it's important to ensure you're comparing like with like when you conduct a life cycle assessment. If you expect your circular economy lifecycle assessment to need to be added again, it’s a sure-fire you're not measuring properly.
Want to know how much value you could get for your plastic waste? Get a quote today!