Friday, February 10th, 2012
Thanks are due to the SPI Bioplastics Council for providing free guides to a pair of increasingly urgent subjects: “Understanding Biobased Carbon Content” and “Life Cycle Analysis Primer – What, Why and How.” The Council’s first objective is educating the plastics industry on bioplastics and related subjects, and I’m giving them an A+ on both of these white papers.
The Guides are clear, concise presentations of how best to determine and present biobased carbon content, and how a business leader can understand and successfully sponsor a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA). Both are written on a high level, from the straightforward definitions of their subjects through the critical specifics, and each does a brilliant job clarifying often densely technical source material.
The Life Cycle Analysis Primer is written for the business leader who, to interface with a technical LCA specialist, must understand the ISO 14040 series of standards. And these, as the Guide notes, leave “…a good bit of wiggle room so that the analysis can and must be tailored to the specific situation at hand.”
The Primer considerably shortens the LCA sponsor’s learning curve. For example, it explains that the necessity of making assumptions at the start of any LCA makes it practically impossible to deliver results with 100% certainty, and provides a +/- tolerance to keep expectations reasonable.
“Understanding Biobased Carbon Content” will help prevent well-intentioned companies from unintentionally greenwashing a product or material, or almost as bad, appearing to greenwash one. The enviro-vigilantes are not the forgiving kind.
The Primer makes clear that the ASTM D6866 method standard is designed only to gain data; there is no pass/fail score. The amount of biobased carbon in a material or product can be expressed as fraction weight or percent weight of the total organic carbon. One of those numbers will be higher than the other, but should you choose it? The Guide lays out the decision factors and provides examples using various production processes.
Best of all, the Guides are available free as downloads in PDF form by clicking here. Given how well the Guides do their jobs, they have to be the bargains of the century. To learn more about the SPI Bioplastics Council, including membership, click here.