Welcome to our Interim Life Cycle Analysis of British Recycled Plastic – 29 July 2022
United Nations statement on Climate Change – “Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.”
Faced with an increasing number of extreme weather events and rising global temperatures in recent years, it is obvious that all of us need to take a hard look at how we can modify our behaviour, particularly regarding the use of fossil fuels, to mitigate against this for the good of humanity as a whole.
Our home town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire has had six serious “once in a century” floods since 2000, as well many smaller flooding events. No-one can objectively say that this is normal.
While this is only an interim report, we feel it is necessary to be as transparent as possible and publish the data that we have on the embodied carbon footprint of the products we bring to market. As the first UK company in our sector to do this, we encourage all of our competitor companies to do the same for the benefit of everyone.
We are committed to reducing our carbon footprint in all of our operations and, as part of this, we need to know what our current position is so that we have measurable information from which we can move forward.
We feel confident that we can continue to reduce our emissions and hope to have further information published in 2023 that will reflect some of the ongoing improvements we are making, and those we are urging our supply chain partners to make.
The material contribution of the Life Cycle Analysis for British Recycled Plastic is approx. 0.41 kg CO2 eq using peer-reviewed published carbon footprint data for rLDPE, rLLDPE, rPP, rHDPE in literature. For an equivalent section manufactured from 100% prime resin results in carbon footprint of 1.95 kg CO2 eq. We have assumed all the prime resins originate from offshore and land, transported from refineries to place of polymer manufacture, transport to site manufacturing the product etc.
The carbon footprint data for LDPE granulate as reported in several databases was 2.2 kg CO2 eq in 2011 (see page 49 of the attached) and 1.901 kg CO2 eq for LLDPE granulate (see page 58 of the attached). The carbon footprint data for PP granulate as reported in several database was 1.55 kg CO2 eq (see page 39 of the attached) for 2021. It was reported that in 2020 greenhouse emissions for LLDPE have reduced to approx. 1.472 kg CO2 eq because of efficiencies in manufacturing, i.e., 20% reduction (see page 30 of report “final-acc-LCA..”).
We have assumed one processing step i.e., no offline cutting. Literature value for extrusion is normally approx. 1.07 kg CO2 eq energy we consume to manufacture the product, based on a conventional mixed source of energy used (wind, solar, nuclear, coal etc). Please see page 8 of the file “sustainability-10-02369”.
As our production is in a plant that uses 100% renewable energy (supplied by E-ON), there will be a reduction of approximately 0.47 kg CO2 eq/kg of plastic.
We have assumed transport contribution to be approx. 8% of total product embodied carbon footprint, which is a valid assumption for transport within UK for the diesel trucks used by the Pallet Network, our current distribution method.
Please note that we haven’t considered product use and end of life analysis for the Life Cycle Analysis calculation, i.e., the analysis reported here is only until the product reaches our UK customer. However it is important to point out that for a proper cradle to grave analysis end of life assessment should be taken into account and that packaging collected for recycling (to a second life product) will have significantly lower carbon emission than when the packaging is either landfilled or incinerated.
To summarise, our interim Life Cycle Analysis assessment is that a calculated embodied carbon footprint of a British Recycled Plastic section made from 100% recycled resin is approx. 1.09 kg CO2 eq / kg of polymer.
For comparison, an equivalent section manufactured from 100% virgin resin is approx. 3.17 kg CO2 eq produced in facility using conventional mixed sources of energy, or 2.7 kg CO2 eq /kg of polymer if that facility also used 100% renewable energy.
The primary author of this Life Cycle Analysis report is Jagan Mohanraj, PhD, focused in Polymer Physics from University of Leeds.
This study does not cover our Hebden X-Grids as we are awaiting further data from another partner company in the supply chain of this particular product. It is manufactured in a different facility to the majority of our products and uses a different process, (injection moulding), so we are unsure of the energy usage at this point. We hope to include this data in the next report.
This study compares British Recycled Plastic directly to virgin polymers as this is something for which hard data is relatively easily obtained. A comparison with timber is much harder to calculate as there are so many variables, e.g. types of timber, speed of growth, distance travelled etc. What is clear though, is that our 25 year guarantee, with an expected lifespan considerably in excess of this, contrasted with an expected lifespan of 5 to 7 years (when used outdoors) of the majority of softwood available in the UK, the use of British Recycled Plastic compares very favourably.
Hopefully we can produce more specific data on this subject in our next Life Cycle Analysis report.
All water used on site is recycled in a closed loop. This means that it doesn’t undergo energy intensive treatment each time it is used. This further reduction in embodied carbon has not been fully calculated yet so is not included in this Interim Life Cycle Analysis.
Calculations for the embodied carbon in the raw material are generic and do not include the large amount of material sourced hyper-locally from the nearby agricultural community. Once this data has been fully processed it will inevitably lead to a further lowering of the carbon footprint and we hope to include this in our next Life Cycle Analysis report.
For the papers referenced in this report, please click on the following links to download them.