Jonathan Salt-Waninge is the PHA expert within Ecoras. For years he has been working on the development of the biopolymer PHA. The fact that PHA is truly biodegradable and, not like other biodegradable plastics (like PLA), only degradable in a composting plant, is what makes it so promising. Jonathan works in several research projects around … Read more »
Frequently Asked Sustainability Questions
Laws and regulations are a big part of the transition to a circular economy, but also a very difficult part for many companies and organisations. If you are a company wondering whether you comply with current environmental laws and regulations, you can ask Ecoras to assess this for you. Ecoras is on top of what the EU expects from companies in terms of sustainability now and in the future.
For example, European regulations on the use of plastic packaging materials. A new European regulation for this purpose has recently been introduced, which each member state applies just differently. Therefore, it is not always clear exactly what is expected of you and you may find yourself either not complying or complying but paying way too much.
There are also pending European laws and regulations you can already prepare for as a company, such as the future law CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive). This is the obligation as a company to report on sustainability in a broad sense. For example, from 2024, companies have to be able to prove the level of sustainability of their products. It is important to know what information you have to collect and where to get it from. A good start is half the battle!
Are you ambitious to become more sustainable but run into laws and regulations? It happens regularly, for instance, when you want to use waste as raw material. Despite this, all sorts of things are often possible within the existing legal framework.
Together with the Hanzehogeschool, Ecoras has set up a Legal Platform for this purpose. On this platform, you will find information on what other companies have encountered and how they have dealt with it to support other companies.
It is also possible to submit your own case so that students and affiliated organisation can help you. Another goal of the Legal Platform is to collect the ambitions that are held back by regulations so that we can use this to show in The Hague or Brussels which laws and regulations stand in the way of further sustainability.
First of all, it is important to have a clear idea of what properties the raw material has to meet. For example, does it have to be very strong, flexible or wear-resistant. From there, we can look for a natural alternative. If your raw material is paper, then we can look at a bio-based fibre, if it is a plastic then you usually end up with a biopolymer. If it is textile, then we look for native plants such as flax, hemp, bulrush or nettle that can provide a suitable fibre.
We are also currently investigating bio-based options for coating and colouring products. Ecoras supports and advises companies in their search for natural raw materials. We always take a wider view, preferably mapping out the entire chain.
What is the product used for? Just as importantly, where does the product end up, intended or unintended? These are two essential questions before you start researching how to make a product biodegradable.
After all, not everything that degrades on land also degrades in the sea. It is also important to know what properties and requirements the product has to meet. Does it have to be strong, flexible or wear-resistant? The more you process a natural product to make it meet certain properties, the greater the chance that it will not remain a natural product and will therefore not degrade properly in nature.
Ecoras explores for companies and governments the possibilities in terms of natural alternatives, the environmental impact and the feasibility and scalability of bio-based raw materials.
It depends on how you define biodegradable. Something can biodegrade in nature or in a composting plant. Not all bio-based raw materials are by definition biodegradable in nature. In fact, whether it is easily biodegradable depends on so many things. Anything that comes directly from nature can also go straight back into nature.
But if we modify the natural product extensively to make it stronger or waterproof, for example, the level of degradability in nature decreases. Also, the thicker the material is, the longer it takes for it to degrade. In short, a bio-based raw material is not necessarily biodegradable.
Therefore, when designing your product or selecting the right raw material, it is important to determine in advance the end-of-life options. Ecoras supports and advises companies in designing and manufacturing products based on biodegradable raw materials.
We are happy to help you find out which raw material it is and what applications it is suitable for. It may be that your residual stream contains valuable proteins or fibres, for instance. We analyse raw materials, crops and residual streams based on the BBE Value Pyramid. We always strive for the highest-value application. A protein might be applied in pharma or as a fertilizer in the agri-food sector. Fibre can be applied in a material but also as biomass for the production of other materials. We can then connect you with one or more organisations that want to use this bio feedstock Ecoras has an extensive network and is happy to connect companies.
Recycling waste offers a lot of opportunities. It is also a good starting point if you want to make your business more sustainable. In Groningen, the province and several municipalities mapped the waste streams of 15 business parks. Also, the economic potential of that waste has been investigated.
Take the reuse of wood, for example: as residual waste, wood yields around 580 euros per 1,000 kilos. If you reuse it, it can easily yield €1,400, -, Stec and New Economy’s research shows. One person’s waste is another person’s raw material. Selling waste or reusing it yourself in another product is good for the environment, but also lucrative now that raw material prices have reached peaks. Want to know if your waste is worth more? Ecoras helps companies find a new purpose for waste streams.
First of all, you need a starting point, a measurement of what your current environmental impact is. This can be achieved with a CO2 impact analysis and with a Life Cycle Assessment, also known as an LCA. Ecoras performs both types of impact analyses Our impact analyses are always accompanied by improvement recommendations that we put in a broad context. This makes an LCA or a CO2 impact analysis the starting point for reducing your environmental impact in addition to the final result of the analysis. The critical impact points within your company are made transparent and you know what you can work on very specifically.
An LCA is a life cycle assessment. An LCA shows you the environmental impact of your company, product or process. Ecoras offers three different life cycle analyses so there is a relevant analysis for every business, product or situation. For example, we made an environmental impact analysis for Wellness Pet Company for their new factory in Veendam. In addition to their CO2 footprint, the LCA showed Wellness Pet Company several useful results. For instance, it showed that transport by sea, which they use, has a much lower environmental impact than transport by land. They were very pleased with that, but it also turned out that they used more energy than they would like. They started working on that right away. Now they closely monitor their energy consumption within the factory, so they gain insight and can optimise their usage. Some of their ingredients also had a bigger impact than they initially thought. In this case, measuring is knowing, and they know what they can take action on.
An LCA is performed according to European methodologies (PCR/PEFCR/OEFCR) and ISO 14044/40. You receive a sustainability report – with possible follow-up actions – which is also valid proof for subsidies and investments. The Complete LCA is the foundation for an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). This is a European recognised reporting format in which you list the most important environmental impact indicators.
During a CIRCO Track, participants are introduced to the circular economy and the benefits it can bring to a business. The term ‘circular economy’ is an abstract concept for many entrepreneurs. Where to start, what do you have to tackle and is it very expensive? Nothing could be further from the truth. Circularity is actually about practical issues such as using less energy, paper, packaging materials, cleaner transport and recycling all kinds of waste. The programme is not just idealistic. A CIRCO Track leads to a new (circular) business model for the entrepreneur that briefly and powerfully describes how the company creates, delivers and preserves value.
A CIRCO Track includes three half-day meetings, with each participant working on their own product(s). Together with a CIRCO trainer from Ecoras, participants will explore circular opportunities. This involves examining various issues, such as waste in the production process, but also the raw materials used. Perhaps there are more sustainable alternatives e.g. a bio-based raw material or a raw material from a waste stream. But we also look at broadening services. Can companies perhaps offer repairs, allowing products to be used again or for a longer time? In short, a CIRCO Track provides practical tools to get started with circularity. You develop your own business case into a specific plan, realisable in your company in the short term.
At the Circular Introduction Demo, we will help you get started by introducing you to the circular economy. Where do you start? What benefits can it bring you? What are the first steps you can take? What data is important to collect and where can you find it? How to ensure sufficient ownership in your organisation. What does the EU expect from you as a company in this area, now and in the future? The Circular Introduction Demo is an introduction and kick-off to get started with a Circo Track or a Circular Transition Trail.
A Circular Transition Trail is a complete journey through which you and your company make the transition from a linear to a circular economy. Ecoras guides you through this entire process.
Step 1. Insight & support
We start by identifying where the main environmental impact lies within your business operations. This immediately tells you where the opportunities lie. We do this using an LCA, a life cycle analysis. These come in different types and formats, so there is an environmental impact analysis for every business, product or situation. It is also possible to start with a circular workshop to create in-house awareness and support and then analyse the impact.
Step 2. Environmental opportunities
After we have mapped out the opportunities and possibilities, you can get to work. With the management or middle management, we discuss the environmental opportunities based on the LCA and also examine the economic and social effects. Together, we look at what to change in, for example, business-to-production processes, as well as bio-based alternatives to fossil raw materials.
Step 3. Working on the change
With each department, we define the KPIs so that it is clear to everyone where change is being pursued. We also guide you during this phase to actually take the steps needed to become a circular company. After all, this requires a different way of thinking and acting.
Step 4. Regular reviews
We periodically review how the transition is going and where adjustments have to be made until the result is achieved.
We like to work towards a fully circular economy. This is why we take a wide-ranging and pragmatic approach to our projects. After all, it is important to make things happen, but also to set achievable goals. Want to know how we work?
You probably know them, the bed pads at hospitals, rehab centers or doctor’s offices. But did you know that these bed pads are in the top 10 environmental impact hotspots in an Intensive Care Unit. At UMCG alone, 890 underpads are used per day! That’s 325,000 per year, and we’re only talking about one of … Read more »
From 2024, it will become mandatory in the EU for all listed companies and large corporations to report on sustainability policies and performance according to the “European Corporate Sustainability Directive” (CRSD). Starting in 2025, this will also apply to large companies not currently covered by the NFRD. In addition, listed SMEs, insurance companies and credit … Read more »