Sustainable materials

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.

Read more:

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.

Material recycling

On this page, you can learn more about material recycling & upcycling.

Typical distribution of CO2 emissions for a company selling products
Typical distribution of CO2 emissions for a company selling products - majority of CO2 emissions are due to materials used

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

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

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.

Metals – RecycledSteel – recycled880
Metals – RecycledAluminum ingot – secondary581Recycled aluminium
Metals – RecycledStainless steel (Recycled 40%) [Carbon steel: 0% / austenitic stainless: 100% / ferritic stainless: 0%]3800Upcycled stainless steel
Metals – RecycledStainless steel (Recycled 60%) [Carbon steel: 100% / austenitic stainless: 0% / ferritic stainless: 0%]4800Upcycled stainless steel
Metals – RecycledStainless steel (Recycled 100%) [Carbon steel: 0% / austenitic stainless: 100% / ferritic stainless: 0%]1700Upcycled stainless steel
Plastics – BiobasedBio PUR3260
Plastics – BiobasedBio PET, PEF2170
Plastics – BiobasedBio PE, PLA, PHB, PHA, PBS, starch- and cellulose-based polymers2060HDPE bio alternative
Plastics – BiobasedBio PE, PLA, PHB, PHA, PBS, starch- and cellulose-based polymers2030HDLD bio alternative
Plastics – BiobasedBio PVC, PHA, starch- and cellulose-based polymers1430PVC bio alternative
Plastics – BiobasedBio PP, Bio PPT, PLA PHA, PHB, TPS, cellulose-based polymers880PP bio alternative
Plastics – BiobasedPLA, PHA, TPS, cellulose-based polymers630PS bio alternative
Plastics – RecycledRecycled PET176020% uncertainty on emissions
Plastics – RecycledRecycled PET2690Recycled, Austria
Plastics – RecycledRecycled PET1370Recycled, EU-27
Plastics – RecycledRecycled PS 1380Recycled, EU-27
Plastics – RecycledRecycled PE/PP1300Recycled, EU-27
Plastics – RecycledRecycled PET800Recycled, USA
Plastics – RecycledRecycled PVC990Recycled, EU-27
Plastics – RecycledRecycled PE/PP630Recycled, USA

Green facts

...and greenwashing

Sustainable materials for product development

A collection of sustainable material suppliers (or upcoming suppliers)





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