Quantifying environmental benefits of a production process
Viva Healthcare asked PRé to quantify the environmental benefits of its injection moulding process compared to the industry average. To do so, we did life cycle assessments of Viva's products and of a range of competing products.
A plastic tube manufacturer, Viva Healthcare, wanted to quantify the environmental benefits of its unique injection molding production process that also features in mold labeling compared to industry average tubes. To maximize coverage of the existing market, comparisons were made between Viva’s tube and industry tubes with and without post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic. Because Viva desired to better understand the advantages of its manufacturing process, the study boundaries focused on raw material extraction through the factory gate. In addition to utilizing a unique production process, Viva uses a single plastic resin in its tubes, while industry tubes are made with multiple resins. Therefore, Viva’s tubes are easier to recycle and have lower disposal impacts when recycled. To quantify this recycling benefit, an additional end of life scenario was modeled.
The project was started with a kick-off meeting to determine appropriate comparisons and primary goals of the study. PRé then researched secondary data sources to model the industry tubes and background processes for which Viva was unable to collect primary data. Emissions in five impact categories (global warming, energy demand, acidification, eutrophication and ecotoxicity) were quantified at each lifecycle stage, from raw material production to leaving the manufacturing facility. Disposal impacts were modeled separately.
PRé found that Viva’s injection molded tube had lower impacts than industry tubes made from virgin plastic in all categories and lower impacts than industry tubes with PCR in four of five categories. Viva’s production process has fewer steps, which helps to lower impacts during the most impactful stage of the study: production.
In addition to lower production impacts, disposal of Viva’s tubes has lower impacts than disposal of industry tubes because Viva’s tubes are more easily recyclable. Based on EPA Office of Transportation data, recycling one million Viva tubes avoids the annual emissions from ten passenger cars. While Viva has already taken steps to reduce the impacts of its tubes through an efficient manufacturing process, impacts may be reduced further through the use of recycled plastic and by working with customers to boost tube recycling rates.
Working with PRé, Viva discovered the following value-driven benefits:
- Quantification of the environmental benefits of its production process
- Confirmation that Viva’s tubes are less impactful to the environment than typical industry tubes
- Awareness of the environmental advantages of using recycled plastics instead of virgin plastics