Part 2: Fairmat’s Simplified LCA Journey

In the second part of Fairmat’s Simplified LCA series, we discuss how FAIRMAT administered a Simplified Life Cycle Assessment in its early growth phase as a startup.

  • LCA assesses a product’s or process’ impact on the environment during its entire life cycle. 
  • ‘Simplified LCA’ is a concise application of this LCA model. A simplified version of this tool is ideal for startups and SMEs due to time and resource constraints.

Why Fairmat undertook this project?

Simplified LCA is our attempt to provide a quantitative basis (scientifically estimated) for our sustainable claims, and to steer clear of communicating any misleading information. Simplified LCA results of Fairmat’s offers are exceptionally positive even after considering the relative comparison clauses, limitations, and assumptions.

This Simplified LCA project helps Fairmat to identify the product or process-impact improvement opportunities and to articulate the comparative results within the community. This project helps us become a responsible and compliant business.

Fairmat’s Simplified Life Cycle Assessment Journey:

1. Dual kick-off:

Fairmat is a Deep Tech business with two complementary offers; recycling service and recycled products.

We recycle carbon fiber composite waste to manufacture second-generation materials used across several industries. The lifecycle of a ‘process’ differs from that of the ‘products,’ and so does their impact on the environment.

LCA is a standalone project with several internal departments collaborating with a consultancy over a set period (we chose summer 2022 to round it off while it’s still sunny.) We partnered with an authorized global consultancy, Greenflex, to get the ball rolling on both service and product fronts. 

2. Full-fledged LCA or LCA-lite?

We began our LCA journey with self-diagnosis. Do we need to dive into every way our recycling process or recycled materials impact the environment? The answer is no — because Fairmat is scaling its manufacturing and recycling, and the results obtained now will become less relevant eventually.

We opted for a ‘simplified’ version of the life cycle assessment to optimize between the available resources and necessary results. (Read about how a Simplified LCA differs from an LCA)

3. Dipping our toes into the assessment:

Like any other project, we began by defining our LCA project’s objectives and scope.

We decided that since Fairmat’s materials have many possible applications, a ‘cradle-to-gate’ study (impact study from resource extraction to the factory gate) will suffice.

Simplified LCA studies can be flexible regarding lifecycle phases, etc., and can be adapted as per your business needs. 

The objectives of our study were to assess the environmental footprint of recycled composite material and the recycling process. And, to compare both the process and the service’s impact, to that of the alternative methods and materials used across industries. 

4. Disclosing the shortcomings:

Next, we went about listing the assumptions and limitations of the study, for example, listing that the study doesn’t factor in ‘the manufacturing of the equipment used in the factory’.

The results will have no factual significance if the study’s limitations are disregarded.

5. Basis of all objective comparisons – ‘functional units’:

Defining a product’s (or product system’s) functional unit allows us to quantify and compare the products based on their performance. For example, in this study, for all end-of-life waste management comparisons, the unit used was “1 kg of composite waste recycled” by different methods (landfilling, incineration, etc.) 

6. Selecting relevant environmental impact indicators:

6 out of 16 indicators, namely climate change, water, resource and land use, acidification, and eutrophication, were selected and studied for Fairmat’s LCA study.

Results for each indicator are graphically presented in the annexes in the detailed report.

7. LCI, LCIA, and Interpretation phases:

Read Part- 3 of the Simplified LCA series to follow the detailed comparative analysis and graphical representations of Fairmat’s Recycling process and Fairmat’s Materials.

Also, read part 1 and part 3 of the simplified LCA series. 

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