Tag Archives: biobased economy

Choices in a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – a case study of paper recycling

Using a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)  has many benefits. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the results of a LCA are determined by the choices the researcher makes. These choices affect indicators, functional unit, allocation and system boundaries. Especially in the circular economy, with its innovations involving recycling, reuse and circular design, LCAs can be quite complex.

An interesting example  of how we need to treat Life Cycle Assessment results very carefully, is the comparison of the life cycles of paper (or board) products produced from virgin and recycled fibres.

An “odd” conclusion

Around 2009 there was an interesting discussion in the Netherlands about a report that compared the environmental impact of different packaging materials. In this report, the CO2 emission over the life cycle of virgin based paper products appeared to be lower than those of recycled fibre based products. To many, this result seemed rather counter-intuitive and asked for further research.

In order to determine whether or not virgin fibre based products had a lower environmental impact, I performed a study together with Jobien Laurijssen. We created an Excel model to map the mass flows and energy use of the main production processes of different paper production routes in detail.

CO2 vs energy footprint

This study demonstrated the huge benefits in terms of energy use over the total life cycle, by using recovered fibre instead of virgin fibres. The main reason was that the energy required to convert wood into pulp for papermaking, is very large, whereas turning recovered paper into pulp on the other hand requires very little energy (note that the quality of the fibres of virgin pulp differs significantly from recovered paper pulp).

What is interesting from a CO2 emission perspective, is that when wood is converted into pulp using chemical pulping, the process, although incredibly energy intensive, does not emit much CO2. The reason for this is that it uses mostly bio-energy to fuel its energy needs. Wood consists partly of cellulose, hemi-cellulose and lignin. In chemical pulping, only the cellulose is extracted and the rest is burned for energy recovery. This way, you emit virtually no net CO2 emissions because you use bio-fuel. This means that for every tree, you are only using half its mass to produce paper, while using the other half to produce bio-energy.

Different outcome

At the end of the life-cycle, the used paper can be either recycled or incinerated (let’s assume the paper is not landfilled). When assuming that the paper is incinerated for energy recovery, you can argue that this saves CO2 emissions by saving fossil fuels. When recycling the paper on the other hand, one cannot allocate such CO2 savings due to energy recovery. This also reduces the CO2 emissions of virgin fibre paper products in comparison  to using recovered fibres.

As you can see, although intuitively it may seem clear that recycling of paper is beneficial to the environment over using virgin fibres, when you compare the CO2 footprints the results may show a different outcome, depending on the system boundaries that you take into account. From an energy perspective, there is not much discussion, since recycling of paper saves you that highly energy intensive process of turning wood into pulp. But when it comes down to CO2 emissions, the LCA interpretation becomes much more complex.

Expand the system boundaries

So how can we solve this dilemma? Our research shows that a good solution is to expand the boundaries of the LCA system, and include wood as a resource that has to be used in equal amounts in both the production of paper and board from virgin fibres and recycled fibres. If you assume the “saved” wood due to recycling of recovered paper, for direct energy conversion, then the research of Jobien Laurijssen and me clearly shows that using recovered fibres has a much lower environmental impact than using virgin fibres.

Read 3 ways a LCA makes your company more profitable 


Marc Marsidi (paper & board industry) m.marsidi@partnersforinnovation.com

Thomas Dietz (LCA) t.dietz@partnersforinnovation.com

Siem Haffmans (LCA / sustainable packaging) s.haffmans@partnersforinnovation.com



Ecotourism in Northern Uganda

This October, Thomas Dietz visited Northern Uganda for a project on sustainable ecotourism. In this project Partners for Innovation investigates and develops green solutions for lodges and hotels together with  SNV. The project focuses on lodges and hotels located in and around the wildlife reserves. The goal of the project is to stimulate sustainable and inclusive growth for tourism in Uganda.


The conducted research has set the baseline for the energy-, waste-, and water streams at the lodges and hotels. Consequently, the baseline will be used to investigate green innovative solutions to enhance the sustainability of the abovementioned streams.

Cooking fuels in Uganda

After finalizing the research on ecotourism in Northern-Uganda, Thomas visited several companies that are active in producing sustainable cooking fuels from biomass (briquettes, pellets, ethanol). These contacts and information will be used for our project for the World Bank focused on the stimulation of alternative cooking fuels.


More info:

Alternative cooking fuels in Sub-Saharan Africa

In August, Partners for Innovation started a study on cooking fuels for the World Bank Group.

The study focuses on four countries: Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Madagascar. Objective of the study is to research, explore and validate scalable business models for alternative cooking fuels that can replace fuel wood and charcoal. Three types of cooking fuel are considered: briquettes, pellets and ethanol. The goal of the project is to provide the World Bank and its development partners with recommendations on how to support the governments of the four countries in promoting alternative cooking fuels.

The study titled ‘ a Global Survey of Scalable Business Models for Alternative Biomass Cooking fuels and their potential in Sub-Saharan Africa’ will take approximately six months.

Partners for Innovation Niger


Partners for Innovation Niger SARL is a subsidiary of Partners for Innovation BV in the Netherlands, managed by Rakiatou Gazibo and located in Niamey, the capital of Niger.


Partners for Innovation Niger SARL

Avenue de Zarmakoye
BP 802 Niamey, Niger
T: +227 2035 1058
E: r.gazibo@partnersforinnovation.com





Senegal launches entrepreneurial agroforestry programme

On March 4th 2015, Oxfam and its partners, local authorities, regional and communal extended services, microfinance organisations and local NGOs launched its three years programme on entrepreneurial agroforestry. The launching workshop was chaired by the Governor of Tambacounda and facilitated a discussion on how to federate stakeholders’ action for an optimal impact towards rural development. The key achievement of the meeting was a general consensus on the projects’ relevance.

Oxfam in Senegal promotes sustainable development of small family farms with respect and protection of access rights to land, water, seeds, credit, etc. To support small producers in the creation of small and medium enterprises, the livelihoods programme chose agroforestry to safeguard various production components.

More info:

Renewable Energy for Transportation

On march 5th ABN AMRO Norway and the Dutch Norwegian Business Network organised a seminar on ‘Developments in renewable energy for transportation’ in Oslo. Emiel Hanekamp was invited to give a presentation on biofuels and the opportunities for sustainable biomass in Africa.

In his presentation Emiel focused on the driving forces behind the increasing use of biofuels. He discussed trends, market actors, opportunities and challenges ahead with special attention to emerging markets.

FAO director-general José Graziano da Silva: “It is time to move to a food AND fuel debate. Competition for resources and energy necessitates a “paradigm shift” – Biofuels should be part of the mix.” 

More info:

Eric Buysman

Associated Expert

Eric is a renewable energy, greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and carbon finance specialist with field experience in South and South East Asia, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Georgia.

“Eric is a dedicated professional with a keen interest in poverty alleviation, GHG mitigation and renewable energy solutions.”

Renewable Energy Production and Utilization | Biodigester Design and Construction | Carbon Project Development | Project Appraisal and Policy Studies

Eric has executed various technical feasibility and baseline studies for renewable energy, in particular on the use of biogas and biomass at household and farm level. Eric was team leader of the GHG mitigation assessment of the non-energy sector (agriculture, land use change and forestry) for the preparation of the Cambodian Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Environmental Technology (University of Wageningen), Technology and Development (University of Eindhoven)

M +855 (0) 126 250 86
E Eric Buysman
S ericishier 

LinkedIn Eric Buysman



Bioenergy Opportunities for Dutch Enterprises and Research Institutes

The biobased economy is a global growth market and offers many international market opportunities for the Netherlands. That is the conclusion of a recent study executed by Partners for Innovation commissioned by RVO (Netherlands Enterprise Agency formerly known as NL Agency).

Six growth areas
Six very interesting global bioenergy areas have been identified for Dutch businesses and knowledge institutes:

  1. Biogas from systems of all sizes and for all energy applications
  2. Biomass heating technologies
  3. Wood pellets, especially for heating
  4. Sustainable biomass chains
  5. New generation biofuels
  6. Integrated biomass-food-feed-energy-chemistry industries

‘Waste to Energy’ (not bioenergy) offers another interesting opportunity for Dutch businesses.

The study shows the strengths of the Netherlands but also our weaknesses. Both the private and public sector need to make additional efforts -both by themselves and together- to be able to seize the opportunities.

More information:

Film: towards a biobased and circular economy

Short film: In our society we currently take, make, use and dispose of our products in a linear way. Nature on the other hand is working in a circular way.

Due to our current –take-make-use-and-dispose- philosophy, our planet is getting more and more polluted with our waste. On top of this, resources are becoming depleted. This behavior is not viable in the long term.

A new approach is needed.

To sustain our future and generations to come, we need a societal shift, from a linear to a circular approach. Using the natural cycle as inspiration for the production of goods.

A circular economy and the biobased economy are unique approaches to changing our way of thinking and designing products.

Watch the movie: