ACV Eucafluff®, lower environmental footprint for the hygiene market
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is certainly the best and most complete tool available in the market to assess the environmental aspects and potential impacts (positive and negative) throughout the product life cycle – from raw material to final disposal – in order to make more sustainable choices. Through an LCA study, when comparing the eucalyptus fluff pulp produced by Suzano in the state of São Paulo, southeastern region of Brazil, with the pine fluff pulp produced in the southeastern United States, we achieved differentials that give the fluff pulp produced by Suzano important comparative advantages to reduce the environmental footprint of hygiene products.
Right at the beginning of this article, it is important to highlight that the life cycle is generally composed of all the stages necessary for a product to be developed or produced and fulfill its respective function, including the stages of final disposal (recycling, landfill, etc.). In the Eucafluff® LCA, considering that the pulps will have the same final disposal regardless of the origin, we concentrated the analysis on the development and production of this raw material. We consider the agricultural stage for obtaining the wood, the pulp production at the mill, until the logistical stage of fluff delivery to Eucafluff® customer’s factories in different regions of the world. We disregarded, therefore, the manufacturing of the hygiene product, its use, and final disposal. This cut-off does not affect the comparative results, since the fluffs will go through similar processes after production.
The Eucafluff® LCA was based on the ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 series of standards, with third-party verification performed by KPMG. We used data reported by Suzano to represent the production of Eucalyptus and its fluff pulp and public secondary data to represent the production of Pine and Pine fluff pulp produced in the southeastern US.
Thus, taking into account the scope of the study described above, when comparing Eucafluff® with pine fluff from the southeastern US, we found the first key differentiator: Eucafluff® has 82% lower impact than pine fluff in the Land Use category, which allows us to indicate that, compared to pine fluff, the use of Eucafluff® reduces the pressure for land occupation destined to other agricultural crops. As detailed in Infographic 1, this is due to three main factors:
- Eucalyptus has a much shorter harvest cycle than pine in the southeastern USA. While eucalyptus is harvested after 7 years, pine in that region takes 27 years, i.e., we have almost four eucalyptus cycles in the same period of one pine cycle. This means producing more with less area.
- The eucalyptus productivity data in the southeast region of Brazil indicate higher productivity in comparison with the public productivity data found for pine in the southeast region of the USA. One hectare of eucalyptus produces 328m³ of wood (Suzano’s data for the southeast region of Brazil) while one hectare of pine produces 236m³ (Puettmann et. al, 2013).
- It is possible to produce more pulp with 1m³ of eucalyptus wood than with 1m³ of pine. Put another way, to produce one ton of fluff pulp, we consume 3.5m³ of eucalyptus wood and 4m³ of pine wood (U.S Department of Energy, 2005).
In addition to the Land Use category, the eucalyptus fluff produced in southeastern Brazil stands out for having a considerably lower carbon footprint than the pine fluff produced in the southeastern US. When we analyze the LCA of these two types of fluff, we conclude that the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during the production and logistic process of Eucafluff® are 30% lower than the southeastern USA pine fluff, in the base scenario of the study (fluff delivery to a plant in Turkey). One of the main factors behind this reduction in emissions from Eucafluff® production is the use of a renewable and cleaner energy matrix. More than 85% of Suzano’s energy matrix used in the production process comes from renewable sources, such as black liquor.
Infographic 2 points out the main sources of GHG emissions in the Eucafluff® life cycle with special emphasis on the carbon content in the product. For each ton of fluff pulp, about 1,630 kg CO2 are removed from the atmosphere during the eucalyptus growth phase. This amount of carbon will remain sequestered in the pulp until its total decomposition or if this pulp is recycled at the end-life stage. Fossil emissions, on the other hand, add up to 644 kg CO2 eq. This performance shows the potential of Eucafluff® to help reduce the carbon footprint of end products.
In addition to the two categories detailed above – Land Use and GHG Emissions – the LCA of Eucafluff® also revealed other comparative advantages that stand out this new raw material as a product with high potential to help companies address one of the biggest challenges they face today: to reduce the environmental impact of their products and be part of the solution to the climate crisis. No company can face these challenges alone, so building strategic partnerships in the supply chain to reduce the environmental footprint of products will play a key role in the new market dynamics in search of a more sustainable future.
About ACV Brasil
ACV Brazil’s mission is to promote the integration of socioeconomic and environmental management tools, preferably based on the life cycle concept, in actions and practices of companies and associations. Its operations cover the life cycle of products and services and offer consulting and critical review for several life cycle assessment studies, as well as support for environmental labeling, sale of software licenses and training. The company has partnerships with Pre Consultants, developer of the leading Life Cycle Assessment software SimaPro, as well as of if Hamburg GmbH, developer of Umberto. In addition, it follows the progress of the Life Cycle Initiative from UNEP and SETAC and is a founding member of the Brazilian Business Network for Life Cycle Assessment.
Sources: [Puettmann et.al., 2013] Puettmann, Maureen; Oneil, Elaine; Milota, Mike e Johnson, Leonard. Cradle to Gate Life Cycle Assessment of Softwood Lumber Production from the Southeast. Disponível em: https://corrim.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/SE-Lumber-LCA-may-2013-final.pdf
[U.S Department of Energy, 2005] Energy and environmental profile of the U.S. pulp and paper industry. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Disponível em: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/11/f4/pulppaper_profile.pdf