The Importance of Accurate Recycled Content Calculation in Manufacturing

Discover Makersite’s cutting-edge approach to recycled content calculation, bridging Life Cycle Assessments with circularity principles for smarter, greener manufacturing.

In the ever-evolving manufacturing sector, sustainability is a key concern and priority. As specialists in product lifecycle intelligence, we at Makersite are keen to share some crucial insights into the obstacles that come with recycled content calculations and how to overcome them.

In recent years, the manufacturing industry has seen a substantial shift in global sustainability regulations. Manufacturers are now expected to provide verified data on the recycled content of their products to meet stringent guidelines such as those defined by the EU Green Deal initiative and the Packaged Product Waste Regulations (PPWR).

Guesswork and unfounded claims no longer suffice; transparency and trust are now paramount, as highlighted in our cost of Greenwashing whitepaper. The cost of inaction is too great a risk to business operations.

Global Regulatory Shifts Pay More Attention To Recycled Content Requirements

As governments across the globe step up their commitment to sustainable practices, the introduction of mandatory recycled content requirements is becoming a game-changer.

This emerging regulatory landscape compels manufacturers and their supply chains worldwide to ready themselves for these changes as recycled content regulations start rolling out from North America to Europe. The regulatory momentum aims to catalyze the circular economy through the promotion of waste collection, processing, and recycling; incentivization of investments in innovative infrastructures; and the enhancement of environmental product and packaging design.

Consider, for instance, California’s approach, where penalties are imposed for non-compliance with specific standards based on post-consumer resin percentages. Plastic bottles, for example, are required to have a 15% recycled content as of January 2022, escalating to 25% in 2025 and reaching 50% in 2030.

In the United Kingdom, the Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) came into effect in April 2022, targeting all packaging containing less than 30% recycled content. Similarly, under the EU Single-Use Plastic Directive, PET bottles must contain at least 25% recycled plastic by 2025, with the threshold increasing to 30% by 2030.

Such emerging trends underscore the increasing regulatory focus on recycled content and present a compelling case for all stakeholders to step up their sustainability efforts.

The Approach to Streamlining Recycled Content Calculation

Those involved in sustainability and circularity roles within large manufacturing organizations face an urgent need to adopt tools and methodologies that ensure precise calculation and reporting. An effective solution not only aggregates data from the entire supply chain for calculation but also identifies recyclable aspects within products, thereby creating a pathway to optimized design for circularity.

Data in Design: The Gateway to Circular Economy Success

To fully comprehend the vital role of design in achieving a successful circular economy, you only need to look at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s butterfly diagram.

 

Circular Economy Systems Diagram

 

This illustrates the two key cycles of circularity: the biological and the technical. Unfortunately, our current take, make, and waste economy is full with products that, due to their design, cannot be successfully integrated into either of these cycles and consequently end up as waste. A common example includes products that merge biological and technical materials, such as textiles combining natural and synthetic fibers, in a way that prevents their efficient separation and circulation.

Now, imagine if designers considered the product’s end-life right from the design phase, with a view towards fitting it into either the technical or biological cycles. This forethought could influence the entire life cycle of the product.

Technical cycle-bound products, for instance, would gain significantly from being designed for easy repair and maintenance and simple disassembly. Modular components that are replaceable, such as the Fairphone would extend their lifespan, and the choice of easily recyclable materials would simplify their circulation. Durability would also be a key factor, ensuring that the product can withstand the use of multiple users over time.

Meanwhile, if products like wooden furniture were conceptualized with the biological cycle in mind, the incorporation of biodegradable materials would be prioritized. A clear distinction between technical elements (like screws) and biological ones (like wood) would facilitate easy separation. Even auxiliary materials like glues and paints would be selected based on their biodegradability. Similarly, single-use items like takeaway food containers can be designed to be compostable, thus enriching the soil with the food remnants they often carry.

Linking Life Cycle Assessments and Circularity for Smarter Decisions

The challenge designers face when considering end-life of a product is the need for more understanding about their material and supply chain choices. Traditional product Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) have long been a cornerstone of environmental impact evaluation in manufacturing. These assessments measure the environmental impact of a product from its creation—extracting and processing raw materials—to its end of life—disposal or recycling. While LCAs provide an overview of a product’s environmental footprint, they come with their own set of challenges.

Product and Supply Chain Data Management

One of the most prominent issues is data management. Achieving accurate LCAs requires a wealth of detailed data, both about the product itself and its entire supply chain. Unfortunately, manufacturers often face a dearth of high-quality data. The data that does exist is frequently dispersed across multiple systems within ERP, PLMs and CAD, creating silos that prevent intelligent analysis.

Moreover, data from suppliers—a critical component of LCAs—is often incomplete or of poor quality. This scarcity and fragmentation of data severely limit the effectiveness of traditional LCAs, resulting in approximations rather than accurate assessments.

In contrast, advanced approaches to recycled content calculation, like we do at Makersite, aggregates data from the entire supply chain, offering detailed insights into each material and component of a product. This approach not only supports complex and granular LCAs but also supports decision-makers in identifying the most profitable trade-offs between recycled content, recyclability and circularity. Consequently, manufacturers can make smarter, data-driven decisions that boost sustainability and growth.

WATCH: See how Makersite can calculate recycled content in minutes

Staying Ahead: Aligning with Compliance and Sustainability Standards

In an industry landscape where regulatory compliance and sustainability form the cornerstones of success, manufacturers need to stay updated and responsive. Embracing solutions that allow precise calculation and reporting of recycled content positions them to confidently align with best practices, navigate regulatory frameworks, and fulfil their sustainability objectives. This is not just about surviving in the new age of green regulations; it’s about differentiation and seizing the opportunities that this shift presents.

If you’re keen on refining your sustainability initiatives and staying ahead in the complex world of environment, cost and compliance, we’re here to help. Book a demo with our team today and find out how we’re bridging LCAs with Circularity principles to support smarter, greener, faster decision-making.

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