Replacement of non-renewable materials by renewable materials in a diaper - how to assess the change in sustainability performance
Conference poster, 2010
The WooDi project – the Wood based Diaper, is a research collaboration between industry and university. The goal of the project is to make a new diaper that is more sustainable than today’s product, by replacing non-renewable oil based materials in the diaper with a renewable material based on wood. This calls for a way to compare the sustainability associated with using the different raw materials.
A literature survey showed that comparisons of the implications of using crude oil and biomass resources have so far mainly been made for fuels used in transportation. The available literature assessing the use of fossil fuels versus bio-fuels focuses primarily on greenhouse gas emissions, often referred to as the carbon footprint. It does not include, e.g., effects on ecosystem quality, employment, economy, etc. The increased use of bio-fuels for transportation is discussed in relation to food and feed grain prices, as well as negative environmental impacts arising from deforestation and land conversion, as food and fuel compete for scarce land resources.
A diverse number of tools exist that can assess different product sustainability attributes for parts of or whole product life cycles, but none that can directly assess the sustainability of product with renewable versus non-renewable material resource. A reason for that no such method exists is a lack of indicators that describe the competition of resources and how they interact with biodiversity, human health, soil protection, and energy, food, and material production. In addition, this is due to the complexity to define and value social interactions and impacts on ecosystem services. Consequently, there exists no readily available method for comparing the sustainability of using non-renewable oil and renewable wood as raw materials.
Acknowledgements – Financial support from Vinnova, SCA Hygiene Products AB and Södra Cell AB is greatly appreciated.