Industrial greenhouse gas emissions cut with life cycle carbon calculations

We have developed software tools so companies can estimate the 'cradle to grave' carbon footprint of their products. Endorsed by UK government departments and partnered with the World Bank, the free CCaLC software has over 4,000 users in more than 70 countries; it has achieved estimated climate change mitigation benefits worth more than £450 million.

Pollution

"The main aim of this project was to develop a life cycle methodology and decision-support tools for calculating and reducing the carbon footprints in different industrial sectors along complete supply chains." Adisa Azapagic, Principal Investigator, CCaLC.

Few companies have the in-house expertise needed to calculate their carbon footprint - it is a complex as well as time and resource-intensive task. For this reason, most organisations have to rely on external consultants, which is costly and often inhibits companies from estimating their carbon footprint.

However, companies can only introduce meaningful climate change mitigation measures if they can account for the emissions they cause. To facilitate this process, researchers in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science pioneered a 'cradle to grave' method for estimating carbon footprints tailored specifically for industry.

In collaboration with over 30 industrial partners, the researchers developed the method into free software tools that can be used by non-experts in different industry sectors. The software known as CCaLC (Carbon Calculations over the Life Cycle of Industrial Activities) has over 4,000 users from more than 70 countries.

The Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network (CIKTN) features the software in its Sustainable Design Guide, promoting CCaLC to UK and European businesses. The World Bank also features CCaLC as a partner in its Platform for Climate-Smart Planning.

Example user benefits - PVC industry

CCaLC showed that the use of recycled PVC offers a 20-fold reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to virgin product.

The European PVC sector is committed to VinylPlus - a ten year industry-wide initiative to improve its sustainability.

Use of CCaLC showed that achieving the VinylPlus target of 800,000 t of recycled PVC per year by 2020 would result in a reduction in carbon dioxide eq. emissions of 1.6 Mt per year, equivalent to 2.4% of the GHG emissions from the whole sector. Based on the findings of the Stern Report, this is worth an estimated saving of £170m in terms of climate change mitigation.

CCaLC is endorsed across the PVC sector, including by INEOS ChlorVinyls, a leading VinylPlus partner and Europe's largest PVC producer.

"CCaLC is viewed as a central plank in the European PVC industry's carbon commitment. It has proved valuable because it provides a simple yet effective tool to illustrate how various players in the vinyl value chain can make a difference to carbon and other environmental savings." Dr Jason Leadbitter, Sustainability and Compliance Manager, Ineos ChlorVinyls.

Example user benefits - Food industry

CCaLC helps Kellogg's to reduce carbon footprint by 20%.

Kellogg's is committed to reducing its energy use, GHG emissions and water by 15-20% by 2015. CCaLC showed that the carbon footprint of Kellogg's products, including Special K, can be reduced by up to 20% by focusing on the life cycle stages that contribute most to the impact, helping the Company meet their 2015 targets.

"CCaLC has helped Kellogg's to identify business-wide hot spots and provide focus in terms of future priorities for carbon reductions along the entire value chain... We habitually use CCaLC in all new food and packaging innovation and design... We've also found CCaLC is useful to inform how to design more sustainable future products and as a vehicle for engagement with suppliers." Richard Burkinshaw, Kellogg's Senior Sustainability Manager, Europe.

Background

A research team from the Sustainable Industrial Systems group developed the 'Carbon Calculations over the Life Cycle of Industrial Activities' (CCaLC) method to estimate carbon footprints and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industry. A whole systems approach considers carbon footprint, water footprint and other environmental impacts at all stages of the supply chain.

The researchers and users found that CCaLC:
  • Helps identify carbon 'hotspots', often overturning previous assumptions
  • Highlights where the greatest carbon reductions can be made
  • Identifies how mitigation of carbon emissions affects other environmental impacts
  • Raises awareness and disseminates best practice in reducing carbon emissions

As part of the research, the team produced over 50 case studies in collaboration with more than 30 partners from different industries, including the chemical, food and drink, and bio-sectors. The case studies, together with comprehensive databases, containing carbon footprint data for over 6000 products, can be downloaded for free from: www.ccalc.org.uk.

Selective relevant references

Stichnothe H. and Azapagic, A. (2009). Bioethanol from Waste: Life Cycle Estimation of the Greenhouse Gas Saving Potential. Resources, Conservation & Recycling 53(11): 624-630.  doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2009.04.012.

Stichnothe, H. and Azapagic A. (2013). Life Cycle Assessment of Recycling PVC Window Frames. Resources, Conservation & Recycling 71(1): 40-47. doi:10.1016/j.resconrec. 2012.12.005.

Amienyo, D., Gujba, H., Stichnothe, H. and Azapagic, A. (2013). Life Cycle Environmental Impacts of Soft Carbonated Drinks. Int. J. of Life Cycle Assessment 18(1): 77-92. doi:10.1007/s11367-012-0459-y.

Azapagic, A., R. Burkinshaw, S. Chahal, J. Leadbitter and M. Pitts (2011). Measuring Carbon Footprints, TCE, 24-26, March 2011.

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