Measuring the circularity of a product or service must be the objective of all companies to take note of the quantities and types of natural resources used, among other things, in terms of:
– renewable and non-renewable,
– recycled, permanent recycled and recyclable,
– biodegradable and compostable,
– economic and environmental sustainability of the product.
The objective is to calculate an input-output balance sheet covering the entire life cycle of the product. The approach can be gradual, considering the types of resources to be surveyed (material, energy), for the degree of deepening (involvement or not of suppliers or other subjects in the supply chain).
The inventory phase must be very accurate in order to avoid approximations that can create high margins of error in the calculation methodology. The inventory data for the production phase are already in the possession of the companies as they are the specifications for each individual product. In addition to the production data, those relating to packaging, the use phase (maintenance and replacement of components) and finally the disposal and recycling phase must also be taken into account (for competence in the possession of municipal authorities, consortia or national bodies).
Durability, frequency of use or reuse and sharing of the product are requirements that must necessarily be taken into account in the evaluation of circularity, as they allow to obtain indications on the efficacy of use of the product. There may be difficulties comparing physical indicators (such as materials used and waste generated), with usage indicators (e. g. load factor) and within physical indicators having to include both material and energy resources.
One solution to the problem is to adopt Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which allow all five key elements of the circular economy to be linked together, and therefore both physical and utilization factors to arrive at a single unambiguous result.
For each phase of the product’s life cycle, in addition to the data on the resources used and the methods of use, the economic data must be taken into consideration to assess the economic efficiency of the process. In this way, companies can define market scenarios: for example, by intervening on the choice of materials or on the way in which goods are sold as products or services.
The choice of the best solution to be pursued can be identified through the definition of market scenarios where environmental and economic assessments and resource use flows, it is possible to identify possible implications and criticality of the system, obtaining in this way useful indications for the changes to be made. The economic component, together with the physical component, makes it possible to obtain an overall result in terms of circularity and therefore to concretely assess: for example, whether the choice of using certain resources guarantees greater durability, reparability and recyclability of the product.
Circularity measurement is an approach that goes hand in hand with other environmental impact assessment tools for products and/or services such as Life Cycle Assessment or Carbon Footprint.
The use of circular material or more circular materials can significantly improve the evaluation results. In this respect, MATREC is an essential portal for all companies to know and choose the best circular materials.