With the increased acceptance of the mass balance approach to support the adoption of recycled or renewable raw materials, the need for a globally recognized mass balance standard for the industry has grown.
Mass balance is generally acknowledged to be crucial to accomplishing the transition of the industry, but the way this is applied can differ significantly. In fact, research shows that there are big differences in the way mass balance methods are used within the industry, making it difficult to talk about mass balance as one method.
What is mass balance? Mass balance accounting is a mechanism to start the large-scale phasing out of fossil raw materials with the goal of a fully converted industry. It offers a highly efficient way to introduce renewably-sourced or chemically recycled feedstock into manufacturing, namely by feeding this into existing systems to make the recycling process economically feasible. It provides a set of rules for how to allocate the renewable or recycled content to different products to be able to claim and market the content as renewable or recycled. The actual carbon molecules in the product may not be recycled or renewable, but through a third-party certificate, the recycled or renewable content is verified.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), has now started work to remedy the situation by creating a new standard. In Sweden, four representatives of the industry have jointly outlined the key principles on which such a new standard should be founded for maximum credibility and sector transformation.
The four - Perstorp Holding AB, Trioplast Industrier AB, Sekab and Johanneberg Science Park – are all recognised pacesetters for sustainable business.
“When a global standard is forming, it is important that it is transparent, credible and drive real change and development of new raw materials and production processes,” emphasised Mats Bergh, CEO of Johanneberg Science Park.
The companies are urging the ISO not to accept the transfer of credits between geographies, or products, as they argue that allowing this within the new global standard would not only harm the credibility of the whole industry, leading to greenwashing accusations, it would also obstruct the real change and development of the raw materials and production processes needed.
They are calling for the concept of Traceable Mass Balance to underpin the new standard. A standard founded on the principles of Traceable Mass Balance could really push the industry forward, said Jan Secher, CEO of Perstorp, as this is based on chemical and physical traceability.
In other words, there must be a proven route to produce the product from the recycled or renewable raw materials chosen and these can only replace their own part or share of the product; and the product is produced via a production process on site from the recycled or renewable raw materials which have been verifiably shipped to and used at the production site producing the recycled or renewably-sourced product. Hence, a producer may not transfer recycled or renewable credits from one site to another.
As Andreas Malmberg, CEO of Trioplast explained it: “Mass balance without chemical and physical traceability is comparable to making a pancake organic by substituting the milk for more organic eggs, by adding organic orange juice or by transferring “organic credits” from organic eggs used in a different bakery. We are afraid that doing so risk undermining the credibility of the entire industry.
Applying chemical and physical traceability gives credibility, but more importantly, it drives real change and supports the development of the recycled and renewable raw materials as well as the production processes needed.”