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FAQs Sustainability

Frequently asked questions about sustainability

What is the difference between biobased and biodegradable? What is a carbon footprint or a life cycle assessment? There are many new terms in the context of sustainability. To keep track of them, we have compiled a short overview with the most important definitions. 

Definition: Sustainability


In the past: Sustainability means to cut only as much forest as will grow back again. (Definition according to Hans Carl von Carlowitz, 1713)

Today: The goal is to leave an intact world to future generations through economical, responsible use of the available global resources (e.g. oil, fish and forest stocks, CO2 budget, etc.). To achieve this, social, ecological and economic aspects must be given equal attention.

Definition SDGs

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations adopted the 2030 Agenda on September 25, 2015, which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by all UN member states between 2016 and 2030.  The Sustainable Development Goals represent a global plan to promote sustainable prosperity and peace and to protect our planet.  

As a manufacturing company and member of a successful, globally active group of companies, AKRO-PLASTIC sees it as its duty to contribute to the fulfillment of these goals. Read more about this here:  

Definition: Biopolymers


Biopolymers can be divided into three categories:

  • Biobased polymers that are not biodegradable ► AKRO-PLASTIC
  • Biopolymers that are petrochemically produced but biodegradable ► BIO-FED
  • Biobased polymers that are biodegradable ► BIO-FED

Definition: Biobased Polyamides

Biobased Polyamides

Polymers derived in total or in part from biomass. These include polymers,

  • that have been synthesized directly from living organisms (plants, seaweeds, etc.) (e.g. starch)
  • whose original feedstock comes from agriculture and has been further processed by (bio)chemical processes (e.g. castor oil to biobased polyamides).

The biobased content, or to be more precise, the biobased carbon content, of a material can be verified by chemical analysis (radiocarbon method).

Definition: Biodegradable Polymers

Biodegradable Polymers

Biodegradable polymers can be converted into CO2, water and biomass by microorganisms (e.g. fungi or bacteria). This depends only on their chemical structure, but not on the feedstock (biobased or fossil). Biodegradability is strongly influenced by the environment: temperature, type of microorganisms, duration of exposure, aerobic/anaerobic. There are different standards, labels and certification systems for different environmental conditions (e.g. industrial compost, home compost, agricultural soil, ocean). Biodegradable polymers are mostly used for short-lived consumer products or for products that are likely to end up in nature.

Definition: Bioeconomy


In the bioeconomy, renewable, biological raw materials (biomass) are used to produce value-added products. These include food and feed, biobased consumer products, or bioenergy. For consumer products made from biomass, the following sustainable benefits arise:   

  • Reduces the dependence on fossil, limited resources
  • Potential to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions

Plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow and convert it to biomass. At the end of life of a 100% biobased product, these CO2emissions are released (e.g. through waste incineration), which were previously removed from the atmosphere. In contrast, petroleum serves as a feedstock for fossil-based materials. Crude oil, which is already many millions of years old, is extracted from the depths of the earth and has bound a large amount of CO2 in the form of hydrocarbon chains. So at the end of life of fossil-based products, additional CO2 emissions are released into the atmosphere, adding to the climate crisis.  

The carbon footprint of biobased products is therefore reduced by the stored biogenic carbon of the product. As a result, the carbon footprint can be lower than the value of the fossil-based variant.

Definition: Biomass


Biomass is a material from biological sources, e.g. agricultural plants, trees, seaweed or microorganisms. It therefore does not come from fossil or geological sources (e.g. petroleum or stone).

Definition CFP

Carbon footprint of Products

The carbon footprint of products (abbreviated CFP) indicates how much greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are caused in total by a specific product (goods or services). It therefore describes the impact on the climate crisis. As a synonym, the term CO2 footprint is also used in Germany. Different life cycle phases can be considered, e.g. cradle-to-gate or cradle-to-grave. 

A cradle-to-gate approach is also referred to as a partial CFP, since the balance does not take the entire life cycle into account, as is the case with the cradle-to-grave approach. The CFP is given in CO2 equivalents and is always related to a specific application, e.g. x% CO2eq for the production of 1 kg of compounded plastic granulate. 

There are various standards for balancing the CFP, including ISO 14067, GHG Protocol or PAS 2050.

Definition: Circular Economy

Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is about reducing waste and reusing materials. For example, waste from industry or consumers is reprocessed (recycled) to make new products. A typical example is the collection of PET deposit bottles, which are reprocessed into plastic pellets. The Circular Economy is considered sustainable by

  • the avoidance/reduction of waste
  • the saving of fossil resources
  • the potential to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG):

In general, the mechanical recycling of plastics causes less GHG emissions than the production of a virgin plastic. This is due, among other things, to lower energy consumption and the shorter process chains. 

Definition: Recyclate


AKRO-PLASTIC defines all raw materials as recycled material according to the standard DIN EN ISO 14021. According to this, recyclate is a recycled material, which has been processed from waste to an (intermediate) product. A distinction is made between post-industrial and post-consumer waste:

  • Post-Industrial = waste before use, i.e., separated from the waste stream during the manufacturing process, e.g., start-up lumps, sprues.  This does not include the reuse of scrap materials that are reused in the same process.
  • Post-consumer = waste after use, i.e. it concerns materials from end consumers, e.g. from households, which can no longer be used for the intended purpose (example: packaging).

AKRO-PLASTIC uses the following recyclates:

  • Recycled carbon fibers (ICF) 
  • Polyamide recyclates  
  • Glass beads  

Definition. Life cycle assessment

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

A life cycle assessment involves considering a variety of environmental impacts of a product. These environmental impacts may include: Acidification of soils, toxicity to humans, depletion of the ozone layer, land, water and resource consumption. A life cycle assessment typically includes a climate impact assessment, or carbon footprint. Well-known standards for balancing are, for example, the ISO standards 14040/14044.  

The environmental impact of a product can be assessed with the help of the LCA. The CFP alone is less suitable for this purpose, as it only describes one environmental impact, albeit the most important one at present. At the same time, the LCA is significantly more costly and complex than the balancing of a CFP. 

Definition: ISCC PLUS and REDcert²

ISCC PLUS and REDcert²

Two leading certification systems for sustainable materials in the chemical industry. Biomass and fossil-based recyclates are used as raw material sources to produce biomass-balanced or recycled-mass-balanced products.  Among other things, fossil resources are saved and attention is paid to ecologically and socially sustainable aspects when growing the biomass. More detailed information can be found here: ISCC PLUS and REDcert² 

Definition: Mass balance approach

Mass Balance Approach

A method to track and certify in a simple way the material flow of biomass/recycled material. It is used within sustainability certification schemes, such as ISCC PLUS and REDcert². More detailed information can be found here: ISCC PLUS and REDcert²

Definition: Allocation Factor

Allocation Factor

The value chain of products in the chemical industry is often very complex. In order to be able to track the sustainable material flow in a simple way, the mass balance approach is used.

We use the allocation factor to show how much biomass and / or recycled material is allocated to the certified product. The allocation factor indicates the proportion of fossil resources that have been replaced by biomass and / or recyclate in the value chain of the material. It is given as a percentage (max. 100%) and refers to the organic share of the product.  The correctness of the allocation is confirmed by ISCC PLUS or REDcert² certification.

The principle behind this is the same as for green electricity: The consumer does not know whether the electricity from his socket is generated directly from renewable energies. However, the electricity provider is obliged to feed the corresponding amount into the power grid. Overall, this increases the amount of green electricity. Similarly, the use of sustainable materials is increasing in the chemical industry. The following graphic illustrates the mass balance approach.

Definition: Biomass balanced and recycling mass balanced

Biomass balanced and recycling mass balanced
  • ISCC PLUS or REDcert² certified materials are mass balanced materials. This means they save fossil raw materials by using sustainable raw materials in the value chain.
  • The term biomass balanced refers to the use of biomass at the beginning of the value chain.  Similarly, recycled-mass-balanced materials use recycled, fossil-based raw material sources.

Definition: Organic, Circular and Bio-Circular

Organic, Bio-Circular and Circular

The terms come from the ISCC PLUS certification. They denote different categories of raw materials:

  • Organic: Material that uses virgin agricultural raw materials (e.g. sugar cane, corn, etc.) at the beginning of the value chain
  • Bio-Circular: Material that uses bio-based waste materials (e.g., grease and oil waste) at the beginning of the value chain
  • Circular: Material that uses recycled, fossil-based raw materials (e.g., recycled plastic) at the beginning of the value chain

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