Getting started with a Simplified Life Cycle Analysis

At Fairmat, we want complete transparency for our products. We decided to have their impact assessed by an external consultancy, in the form of a Simplified Life Cycle Analysis (SLCA).

As already explained in a previous article, a simplified LCA is an essential step in supporting an eco-design approach to composites. In that article, we described the differences between a life cycle analysis and a simplified analysis. Today, we share a little of the process we went through to get started with a Simplified Life Cycle Analysis.

An SLCA is a project in its own right, involving several internal departments and a consulting agency. Before getting started, we needed to define a number of important elements with our chosen partner agency, Greenflex.

Greenflex is a well-known consultancy that has conducted many simplified and certified LCAs worldwide.
We aimed to start the simplified Life Cycle Analysis during the summer of 2022, so we had work to do!
First, we needed to define the parameters of our project: the scope, the relevant data, and the assumptions.
We did that via the following four steps:


Step 1: Defining our objectives to get started 🎯

First, like any well-managed project, the start in the process is to define clear objectives. Our objectives for our simplified LCA were:
– Evaluate the environmental footprint of the recycled composite material produced by FAIRMAT (compounds and laminates)
– Compare the FAIRMAT recycling technology with other end-of-life scenarios for carbon fiber composite waste (incineration, landfill, thermal recycling, etc.)
– Compare this recycled material from an environmental point of view with other primary materials that can be replaced by the FAIRMAT material

The important steps Fairmat prepared for its simplified Life Cycle Analysis

Step 2: Defining the ‘functional units’ 📄

Secondly, the functional unit of a product system is a quantified description of the performance requirements that the product system fulfills. In a comparative study, the functional unit must be the same for all compared product systems.

The units we decided to set for:
– the End-of-life scenario, the unit was 1 kg of composite waste recycled. It allows comparison with other end-of-life scenarios such as landfill, incineration, or pyrolysis.
– the Material scenario, we decided on a unit of 1 kg of FAIRMAT material produced, allowing comparison with other materials.


Step 3: Defining our scope ✅

Then, before we started measuring, we needed to establish the boundaries of our analysis – the scope. We decided on a ‘Cradle-to-Gate’ analysis, which takes into account the processes upstream in the production chain of a product, through to the stage at which the product is ready for use – the point at which it leaves the factory (the gate).
It includes the following:
– methods of waste collection and the transport to the FAIRMAT production site
– other raw materials such as virgin materials, chemical products, and their transport to the FAIRMAT production site
– recycling & production: shaping process, coatings, energy used (gas and electricity), water used, losses, waste, and emissions

In setting this scope, we specifically exclude three steps: distribution, use, and end-of-life.


Step 4: Selecting the environmental impact criteria 🌱

To get full benefit and data from the SLCA, we had to carefully select the environmental criteria we wanted to measure.
The criteria we chose cover a wide range of the environmental impacts of materials and end-of-life processes:
– Climate change: Kg CO2 eq
– Water use: m3
– Resource use, fossils: MJ
– Land use: Pt
– Acidification: Mol H+ eq
– Eutrophication, marine: Kg N eq

At this point, we were set to start the analysis process.
Stay tuned for the next episode – where we take you through the entire process of analysis and the comparisons we chose.

If you’re interested in recycling your carbon fiber waste, feel free to contact us.