At SP Group, we do everything within our reach to bring down the carbon footprint of the plastic in our products. We do this by using sustainable processes and producing recyclable packaging. Greenhouse effect gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and ozone are some of the main causes of climate change. Their chemical composition means that these gases ‘absorb’ some of the heat that reaches us from the sun and, consequently, this increases average temperatures on Earth.
Carbon dioxide (CO₂) is the most well-known of all these gases and it is also one of the gases that causes most pollution around the world because it is associated with many industrial processes and transportation. According to data published by the UN, global emissions of carbon dioxide have increased almost 50% since 1990 and the emissions between 2000 and 2010 alone were greater than the total for three previous decades.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) also points out that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached record levels in 2019.
This is another of the reasons why the UN has included adoption of urgent measures in its Sustainable Development Goals so that countries around the world can prioritise the move towards a more ‘carbon neutral’ industrial and economic system.
WHAT IS THE CARBON FOOTPRINT?
If we want to decrease emissions of CO₂ and stop climate change, it is important that we understand the concept of the carbon footprint in our industrial and business activities.
The carbon footprint is a parameter that is used to measure all the greenhouse gases that are emitted directly or indirectly by an individual, organisation, material or product.
In other words, a carbon footprint is the ‘trail’ of greenhouse gases generated by human activity and expressed in tonnes of CO₂.
A carbon footprint can be:
- A personal footprint. This is the carbon footprint that we generate in our daily lives when we travel, buy clothes, eat, cook, heat our homes and so on. An NGO called The Nature Conservancy estimates that each person on Earth generates an average of almost four tonnes of CO₂ a year.
- A business footprint. This carbon footprint is produced both directly and indirectly by activity in businesses and organisations. It includes CO₂ emissions linked to the manufacture and transportation of products.
- A product footprint. Consumer goods and some materials emit greenhouse effect gases before, during and after their lifespan. Pollution occurs when raw materials are obtained, in addition to during processing, production, distribution and use. There is also pollution when waste is transformed after it is recycled or thrown away.
Over the last few years, there has been increased awareness across all these areas of the carbon footprint of the plastic individuals and businesses use.
THE LOW-DOWN ON THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF PLASTIC
Plastic is used across many areas of society.
Plastics are generally manufactured using oil (a fossil fuel). The process begins in a refinery where crude oil is distilled and its components are separated. One of these components – naphtha – is the key raw material for the production of plastic. Polymers made of monomers, including ethylene and propylene, are generated in this process.
The issue is that, during the process to obtain the pellets that are used to make bottles or other types of plastic packaging, there is an irreversible carbon footprint (around 3.5 kg of CO₂ per kilo of plastic ‘manufactured’ from scratch).
Manufacture of plastic is not the only source of emissions; recycling plastic also has an impact on our carbon footprint.
Even though plastic generates CO₂ and is one of the most complicated solid wastes to recycle, it is still essential and, in many ways, necessary. At SP Group, we champion manufacture of packaging that is incredibly recyclable and aim to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible. Since demand for plastic is so high, it is always better to manufacture a product that contains recyclable material than to manufacture from scratch. On average, when we manufacture plastic packaging using recycled materials, CO₂ emissions into the atmosphere are halved in comparison with manufacture from scratch.
As part of the process to deal with the issues caused by some plastics, we developed our PP HB ECO material, which has been assigned AA classification by Cyclos-HTP Institute, a German company that specialises in classifying, assessing and certifying packaging based on how recyclable it is. This means that, since it is made almost entirely from polypropylene, 90% of the packaging can be recycled. Our PP HB ECO bags with baby food caps are classed AAA and are 96% recyclable.
At SP Group, with both products we deliver real solutions that meet market and consumer needs whilst upholding our sustainability commitment. This commitment includes minimising food waste and reducing the carbon footprint of our plastic packaging.