What are sustainable materials?
Definitions can vary - but most can agree that if an existing product component can be replaced by one with a lower CO2 footprint - then it is a positive sustainable effort.
Below are some facts and insights to highlight different viewpoints on sustainable materials in the light of a mechanical engineer or product designer (in the end, it will have to be the one to create and specify a design that can utilize new green (sustainable) materials.
It is crucial for companies to push the green transition – one of the major drivers in the green transition is materials.
In our experience, approximately 70% of a company’s CO2 emissions arise from the use of raw materials.
CO2 emission breakdowns
See more here for general insights into CO2 emissions breakdown for product development companies.
Lower CO2 emissions by material substitution
Look into this page to learn more about how to reduce CO2 emissions by material substitution from virgin materials to green alternatives.
On this page, you can learn more about material recycling & upcycling.
How to work with sustainable materials in a day-to-day business?
It is definitely more challenging to balance product quality, performance and manufacturing when adding extra requirements to material choices. Robust Design methods are a key player to lower this barrier as designs are less sensitive to material variation when they are optimized by Robust Design. Learn more about how to work with Robust Design on a daily basis by integrating a robust engineering system.
Two types of sustainable materials
How to categorize green materials? The two main categories are recycled materials and bio-based materials.
Recycled materials are materials that have been used before. By ecosystems, the materials have been gathered, sorted, and cleaned for rebirth into a new product.
Bio-based materials (this term is primarily used for plastic materials) are materials that are made from renewable biological resources e.g. sugar cane, corn, or other leftovers from agriculture, and hereby not from fossil sources.
Read more about the bio-based materials here.
List of sustainable materials
A short list of sustainable material examples
Example of green materials – either bio-based or recycled. Emissions per kg material is listed – note that these values are indicative and are relying on the given supplier’s supply chain, location and setup. Read more about the difference further down on this page.
|MATERIAL CATEGORY||MATERIAL TYPE||kg CO2eq/1000 kg material||Notes|
|Metals – Recycled||Steel – recycled||880|
|Metals – Recycled||Aluminum ingot – secondary||581||Recycled aluminium|
|Metals – Recycled||Stainless steel (Recycled 40%) [Carbon steel: 0% / austenitic stainless: 100% / ferritic stainless: 0%]||3800||Upcycled stainless steel|
|Metals – Recycled||Stainless steel (Recycled 60%) [Carbon steel: 100% / austenitic stainless: 0% / ferritic stainless: 0%]||4800||Upcycled stainless steel|
|Metals – Recycled||Stainless steel (Recycled 100%) [Carbon steel: 0% / austenitic stainless: 100% / ferritic stainless: 0%]||1700||Upcycled stainless steel|
|Plastics – Biobased||Bio PUR||3260|
|Plastics – Biobased||Bio PET, PEF||2170|
|Plastics – Biobased||Bio PE, PLA, PHB, PHA, PBS, starch- and cellulose-based polymers||2060||HDPE bio alternative|
|Plastics – Biobased||Bio PE, PLA, PHB, PHA, PBS, starch- and cellulose-based polymers||2030||HDLD bio alternative|
|Plastics – Biobased||Bio PVC, PHA, starch- and cellulose-based polymers||1430||PVC bio alternative|
|Plastics – Biobased||Bio PP, Bio PPT, PLA PHA, PHB, TPS, cellulose-based polymers||880||PP bio alternative|
|Plastics – Biobased||PLA, PHA, TPS, cellulose-based polymers||630||PS bio alternative|
|Plastics – Recycled||Recycled PET||1760||20% uncertainty on emissions|
|Plastics – Recycled||Recycled PET||2690||Recycled, Austria|
|Plastics – Recycled||Recycled PET||1370||Recycled, EU-27|
|Plastics – Recycled||Recycled PS||1380||Recycled, EU-27|
|Plastics – Recycled||Recycled PE/PP||1300||Recycled, EU-27|
|Plastics – Recycled||Recycled PET||800||Recycled, USA|
|Plastics – Recycled||Recycled PVC||990||Recycled, EU-27|
|Plastics – Recycled||Recycled PE/PP||630||Recycled, USA|
Sustainable materials for product development
A collection of sustainable material suppliers (or upcoming suppliers)
- Rondo (Polykemi sib-brand) – material supplier of recycled plastics
- PositivePlastics – demo kit
- MaterialSmart (by Polykemi) – CO2 reduction indicator (for green plastic substitution)
- UPM Formi – supplier of bio-based materials
- UBQ – green termoplast supplier
- Sappi – supplier of bio-based composite (mix of virgin PP and cellulose)
- Arkema – supplier of a bio-based PA
- Sirmax – supplier of recycled PP (upcycled with virgin materials and fillers)
- Plastcom – supplier of bio-based materials
- Borealis – supplier of recycled/upcycled PP
- Trinseo – supplier of bio-based plastics
- UL Prospector – supplier of recycled/upcycled PA66 and partly bio-based PP
- Hydro – supplier of recycled aluminium
- Alumeco – supplier of recycled aluminium (note that Alumeco offer both recycled options and primary ingot made by green/renewable energy sources)
- H2 Green Steel – goal of delivering CO2 neutral steel
- Hybrit – supplier of “green steel” – a joint venture collaboration between SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall