traceless' LCA: Making an impact...
It's time to show numbers! We always say traceless materials are a holistically sustainable alternative to plastics and bioplastics - considering all impact indicators. And as traceless’ innovation is rooted in science - this is not only a well-sounding marketing claim, but based on scientific facts!
Did you know that the ecological footprint potential of traceless has been measured by scientific criteria in a Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) from a (then still) independent third party? Our impact investor Planet A conducted a consequential life-cycle assessment on traceless materials as part of the due diligence for their investment. And the results of this LCA makes us very proud - not only because they led to a positive investment decision, but also because they confirm our positive impact potential! We already introduced the findings to our social-media followers in our ''impact-series''. In this blog post, we wish to summarize it and give a bit more background information. We hope you enjoy reading it!
Let’s start at the beginning: A life-cycle assessment, what exactly is that? Well, a life-cycle assessment (LCA) measures the environmental impact of a product over the entire product's lifecycle - from raw material to disposal - on different indicators. For traceless LCA, the potential environmental impact of our material has been compared to the impact that the same amount of conventional plastics (PP, PET and PE, virgin and recycled, according to market share) would have. The comparison was done for different impact indicators, and in different scenarios, for example looking at different scenarios for the animal feed substitution of the raw materials we use and for the end-of-life scenarios for the reference plastics. Sounds complex? In this blog post, we will therefore give you a summary, mostly referring to the average value of the findings, to give you a first orientation. You can find the link to the entire report at the end of this post. But now, let’s get started - what is traceless’ impact on the different environmental impact indicators?
TRACELESS' IMPACT ON GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION Climate change is one the most pressing challenges of the 21st century and as many of you may know, greenhouse gas emissions play a big role here. But did you also know that conventional plastic production highly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, mainly since these materials are fossil-based? In contrast, traceless materials are bio-based, making use of by-products of the agricultural industry as raw material and their production is based on our patented, very lean and efficient technology. All this taken together, traceless materials can reduce up to 60% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional virgin plastics. Looking only at production and disposal, traceless can even save up to 87% CO2 emissions! By producing 1 million tons of traceless material until 2030, we aim to reduce 1,65 Mio. t CO2-eq. That equals the CO2 emissions of around 250.000 European citizens for a whole year!
TRACELESS' IMPACT ON FOSSIL ENERGY DEMAND Another great effect of traceless materials being bio-based is its fossil energy demand - traceless materials offer high saving potential here! Each ton of traceless materials can save 46,78 GJ of fossil energy. We can hear you thinking, nice number but what does it actually mean? Well, aiming to produce 1 million tons of traceless materials by 2030, this means saving of 46,78 Mio. GJ - that's similar to the amount of fossil energy needed for the demands of around 385.000 German citizens over an entire year!
TRACELESS' IMPACT ON AGRICULTURAL LAND DEMAND Another important impact indicator is land demand. Every square meter of land that can be used for food production is a valuable resource - especially in the context of our growing world population and problems like deforestation and loss of biodiversity.
Every ton of traceless material that is produced instead of conventional plastics can reduce land demand by an area of 1.060 m²a. So, by producing only seven tons of traceless materials, we can already save an area of one football field for a year! With this, traceless is also ahead of many bioplastics. Most bioplastics are based on food resources like starch or sugar. To produce our materials, we are using by-products of the agricultural industry, and not food. Therefore, we avoid direct land-use change conflicts!
TRACELESS' IMPACT ON WATER DEMAND It might not always feel like it, since it is reliably flowing out of your tap (or clouds for that matter) for many of us at any time of the day, but water is scarce! And growing demand makes this resource become even scarcer over the next few years. Therefore, water demand is another impact indicator. Every ton of traceless materials produced instead of a ton of virgin plastics saves, on average, 100.000 litres of water. You know what they say right? Save water, save earth!
TRACELESS' IMPACT ON PLASTIC WASTE GENERATION
Last but not least... The global plastic pollution is the reason for us to bring traceless materials to market in the first place: Creating a material that looks and feels like plastic but actually is a biomaterial, meaning that it composts under natural composting conditions - without leaving any trace! This means, traceless materials do not contribute to the global plastic and microplastic pollution problem. Each ton of traceless we produce can replace one ton of conventional virgin plastics - and thereby prevent one ton of plastic waste which needs to be treated, and could potentially end up in the environment. Now, that is an impact, isn’t it?
Apart from the assessed indicators, traceless has further potential for impact, as the study mentions in the summary: "Aside from the evaluated indicators, traceless might also contribute to other positive environmental effects, for example: The reduction of plastic waste that pollutes the environment goes beyond effects that are evaluated within this study. The impact on biodiversity and health were not evaluated. traceless offers a solution to significantly reduce the total amount of plastic waste and thereby environmental pollution through plastic."
Furthermore, traceless materials are designed according to the cradle-to-cradle principle, with a special focus on bio-circularity and material health. This means no chemicals that are toxic for humans or the environment are used, assuring the environmentally sound management of chemicals.
About the study
The consequential LCA on traceless materials was undertaken by our impact investor Planet A Ventures as part of their due diligence before investing into our start-up. It meets the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards for LCAs. But the LCA not only helped Planet A to decide if they would like to invest in us - it also helps us to scientifically quantify and predict the positive ecological impact of our materials and business-model, so that we can proudly say: by considering all impact indicators, traceless is uniquely sustainable!
Planet A published a comprehensive summary of the original report, containing more details, including all specific values for the different scenarios, and more background information on the applied methodology. The PDF document can be accessed under this link.