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LCA of two different hand
drying systems

A Comparative Life Cycle
Assessment of non-reusable paper
and reusable cotton towels

Date:
Version:
Project number:
Commissioned by:

Executed by:
Main author:

Signature

PRé Consultants bv
Printerweg 18
3821 AD Amersfoort
The Netherlands
Phone +31 33 4555022
Fax +31 33 4555024
web site www.pre.nl
Chamber of Commerce:
320 99 599

17 April 2008
Long version
Vendor bv
Robert de Jong

PRé Consultants B.V.

An De Schryver
Marisa Vieira
Contents
1

INTRODUCTION ........................................................................... 1

2

GOAL AND SCOPE ........................................................................ 1

2.1
2.2
2.3
2.4

FUNCTIONAL UNIT ................................................................................... 1
SYSTEM DESCRIPTION AND SYSTEM BOUNDARIES ...................................................... 1
2.2.1 Transport ................................................................................. 3
2.2.2 End of life ................................................................................ 4
DATA ............................................................................................... 5
ASSUMPTIONS AND SCENARIOS ....................................................................... 5

3

METHODOLOGY .......................................................................... 6

4

RESULTS ................................................................................. 6

4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4

DEFAULT SCENARIO ................................................................................. 6
WASHING CYCLES ................................................................................... 7
WORST CASE SCENARIO.............................................................................. 8
UNCERTAINTY ANALYSIS ............................................................................. 9

5

AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT ................................................................ 10

6

ITEMS OF COMMUNICATION.............................................................. 10

7

CONCLUSIONS ........................................................................... 10

APPENDIX ...................................................................................... 11
ECO-INDICATOR 99 ........................................................................................11
REUSABLE COTTON TOWELS ................................................................................12
NON-REUSABLE PAPER TOWELS .............................................................................13

REFERENCES ................................................................................... 14
Pré Consultants B.V.

1 Introduction
Vendor has commissioned PRé Consultants to do a study on hand drying systems. In this
study an environmental analysis of two types of hand drying systems will be carried out.
The environmental analysis of products is carried out using a technique called Life Cycle
Assessment (LCA). The conventional way of looking at the environmental effects is
focusing solely on one production process of one individual company. On the other hand,
within the LCA technique the environmental impact of all processes, which can be
related to the production, use, and disposal of a product are assessed. This means that
the life cycle includes all processes from the collection or production of raw materials
until the final disposal of the hand drying system.
The data used to perform this study was provided by Vendor and by a report on life cycle
analysis comparing hand drying systems done by the Öko Institut [1].
This document can not be published in public as it is not a peer reviewed study and it
uses single score values to present the environmental impact.

2 Goal and scope
This study has three main objectives:
1. The first goal is to compare the environmental profile of two hand drying systems:
non-reusable paper towels and reusable cotton towels. The non-reusable hand drying
system is manufactured by Vendor. The data for the system of reusable cotton towels
is provided by the report performed by the Öko Institut already mentioned above.
2. The second goal of this study is to identify improvement areas in the production
phase.
3. The third goal of the study is to provide communication opportunities for Vendor’s
clients.

2.1 Functional unit
To carry out this LCA analysis it is essential to have an identical reference parameter
namely a functional unit. The functional unit can be defined as the amount of hand
dryings. The functional unit is 10.000 hand dryings.
The use of 1 pull per 1 hand drying will be assumed as the default value for every towel
system, both reusable and non-reusable. Differences in consumer behavior and
absorption capacity can influence this assumption. In the sensitivity analysis this will be
analyzed.
Towel type
Paper non-reusable
Cotton reusable

Amount of paper/cotton
needed for the hand
drying of one person
1 pull (3,0g)
1 pull (16,2g)

Amount of towel needed to
fulfill the functional unit
30,45kg
1,62kg (used 100 times)

Table 1 - Amount of paper/cotton used per functional unit for each hand drying system

2.2 System description and system boundaries
A. Reusable cotton hand drying system
A scheme of the life cycle of the reusable cotton towels can be seen in the following
figure.

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Figure 1 - System description of the reusable cotton towels hand drying system presented by Öko
Institut [1]

The cotton roll system uses cotton towels, which are reused by washing in professional
laundries. The cotton rolls are produced and manufactured from cotton fibre (“lint”)
from conventional agriculture. The processes included for the production of cotton rolls
towels are spinning, weaving and wet processes. From the production site the cotton rolls
go to laundries for washing and from there they are distributed to washrooms, where
they are put into towel roll dispensers and used by washroom clients. After usage the
cotton rolls are transported to laundries and washed in washing machines with different
types of detergents and chemicals, used for hygiene washing processes. Whereas the
electricity used for washing and finishing is provided by grid, the used steam is produced
in-house. After 70 - 130 washing cycles the cotton rolls have reached the end of their
life-time and are (in most cases) cut and used as disposable cleaning cloths. Both
extreme washing times and a default of 100 washing cycles will be analysed. Finally, they
are treated within a waste incineration plant.
B. Non-reusable paper hand drying system
A scheme of the life cycle of the non-reusable hand drying systems manufactured at
Vendor can be seen in the following figure.

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Pré Consultants B.V.

Figure 2 - System description of the non-reusable hand drying systems manufactured by Vendor

In contrast to the reusable cotton rolls described above, the hand drying system supplied
by Vendor is a one-way system using paper towels, which is not re-processed. The paper
towels investigated are manufactured from fresh pulp. Pulp production and tissue paper
manufacturing are the processes included for the paper rolls fabrication. The rolls are
transported to Vendor. At Vendor, a laminating process of polyester layered between two
paper towels takes place. Then the towels are cut, folded, and Velcro is added to each
refill. The towels are transported from Vendor to the user hand dryers.
After their use the towels are disposed as municipal waste and, part of it ends up in
landfill but most of it is incinerated with energy recovery.
The CO2 uptake from the trees used for the paper input is included in the analysis.
The packaging input is not included for any of the studies.
The infrastructures needed during the production of the product, like buildings or
machinery, are not taken into account in the analysis. The hand drying device is not
considered in the analysis.

2.2.1 Transport
Transport of paper and cotton to and from the towel manufactory is included in the
analysis. However, according to the hand drying system analysed, transport between the
provider and the customer differs. A scheme of the transportation routes for the towels is
presented in the figure below followed by its description.

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Pré Consultants B.V.

Figure 3 - Scheme of the transport circuit of the towels

For the non-reusable systems, the transport between Vendor and the costumer is done
by a transport service.
•

The transport between the Vendor and the distribution centres is a single trip of
100km done by lorry of 28tons at its full capacity.

•

The transport between the distribution centre and the client is a single journey
of 50km done by van. We assume the van is half loaded all the way, once it starts
the circuit totally full and returns empty.

For the reusable systems,
•

The transport between the client and the distribution centre is a single journey
of 75km done by van. The van is completely loaded because when it leaves new
towel rolls it also collects the ones that have already been used.

•

The transport between the distribution centre and the laundry is a return trip of
100km done by lorry of 28tons at its full capacity.

The end-of-life transport is not included for any of the hand drying systems studied as we
assume it is the same for every system.

2.2.2 End of life
About the end of life of the hand drying systems, two situations occur:
•

For the non-reusable systems, the towel rolls under study end up in municipal
waste. In the Netherlands, paper waste fractions are not recyclable, 87% is
incinerated and the remaining is disposed in landfill [2]. The energy recovery
during incineration is taken into account in the scenario ‘with benefit’ (W).
Material
Paper
Polyester
Polypropylene

Energy recovery (MJ/kg)
4,09
10,51
11,28

Table 2 – Energy recovery during incineration per kg of paper, polyester, and
polypropylene

•

4

For the reusable system, we take into account the processes of washing the rolls,
the transport between the laundry and the washroom, and the recycling as
cleaning cloths. The benefit of recycling is assumed to be part of the life cycle
Pré Consultants B.V.

under study and thus is considered in our results. According to the market prices
of the cotton rolls used in the washroom and the cleaning cloths, the recycling
benefit is divided over the two purposes.
Product
Cotton towel
Cleaning cloth

Market value (€ per roll)
400
5,80

Division of the burden (%)
98,6
1,4

Table 3 - Percentage of the benefit of recycling the cotton towels based on the market
value

88% of all cotton towels are being sold as cleaning clothes and the rest is being
incinerated. As stated above, according to the market value, 98,6% of the
environmental burden caused by the production of the towels sold as cleaning
clothes is attributed to the cotton towel. The cleaning clothes are responsible
this way for the remaining 1,4% of the environmental impact.
For the environmental burden of the end of life of the cotton towels, a direct
waste handling of 12% is taken into account plus the one already mentioned in
the paragraph above.

2.3 Data
Vendor provided the data regarding the non-reusable hand drying system by the response
of questionnaires elaborated by PRé Consultants. Background data and data gaps, for
instance for the production of some materials such as polyester, are based on existing
and general databases. The background data used for the materials of this study are
taken from the ecoinvent database 2.0 produced by the Swiss Centre for Life Cycle
Inventories. For screening purposes this is adequate to reveal where in the life cycle of
the product systems the environmental hotspots occur and subsequently intensify the
data collection on these areas.
The Öko Institut report was used as basis for the reusable cotton towel system with the
exception of the following:
• The process of yarn cotton used at the report done by the Öko Institut was
replaced by yarn cotton taken from the ecoinvent 2.0 database because it is a
better documented and complete process.
• It is taken into account the inefficiency of the refill of the towel dispensers
caused by the replacement of rolls that still have part of the roll which has not
yet been used. A loss of 10% per roll is the default value.
• The soap from ecoinvent 2.0 was used in replacement of the detergents and
chemicals used for the washing of the towels by lack of data.
• The transport of cotton between Pakistan and the Netherlands was added.
In order to be consistent, all the electricity figures included are an average European
electricity mix from ecoinvent 2.0 database.

2.4 Assumptions and scenarios
As several assumptions need to be taken during the analysis, different scenarios will be
analysed to assess the sensitivity of the most important decisions made.
The use of 1 pull per 1 hand drying will be assumed as the default value for every towel
system, both reusable and non-reusable. Depending on the results of the default scenario
(1pull for both systems), the sensitivity of the assumed functional unit will be assessed.
The amount of pulls needed to produce the same environmental load for both systems
will be calculated.
There are two possible scenarios concerning the end of life described at the following
table.

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Pré Consultants B.V.

Scenarios
Scenario 1:
Default (W)
Scenario 2:
(WO)

Assumption
Producer of the waste
receives all/part of the
benefit of waste
handling
Producer of the waste
receives no benefit

Cotton recycling
Division of the benefit of
recycling over the different
products based on market
price
No division at all; the entire
environmental load is
attributed to the cotton towel

Incineration
Energy
recovery
included
Energy
recovery
excluded

Table 4 - End of life scenarios analysed: with recycling benefit and without recycling benefit

Depending on the results and what is the difference between taking or not into account
the waste handling benefit, some measures concerning the end of life of the towels
might be done.
Different scenarios on the number of times the reusable cotton towels are washed are
also analysed. Besides that, a worst case scenario for the cotton towels will be
performed.

3 Methodology
In this analysis Eco-indicator 99 will be used to calculate the environmental load of the
systems under study. Eco-indicator 99 is developed by PRé Consultants on commission of
the Dutch Ministry for Housing and Spatial Planning (VROM), in collaboration with
scientists and industry. With this method, the environmental damage to human health,
ecosystem quality and depletion of resources are all taken into account and can be
expressed in one single score (Eco-indicator points 1 ).
For additional information on the method, see appendix.

4 Results
4.1 Default scenario
Comparison between the different hand drying systems using default scenarios
Functional unit: 1 pull
Refill loss: 10%
Reuse times: 100x
With/without end of life benefit
No pre-washing

Figure 4 - Comparison between the environmental impacts of the different towel systems analysed
per functional unit using default scenarios with Eco-indicator 99 H/A (in Points)

For the paper non-reusable towels the biggest burden is caused by the paper production.
Less than 7% is attributed to transport.
1

6

An European inhabitant scores in average 1000 Eco-Indicator points.
Pré Consultants B.V.

The non-reusable paper towels have the lowest impact, although the difference with the
reusable towels is not very large. At first sight it is unclear if the difference is significant.
Consequently, an uncertainty analysis will be made to clarify this issue (see paragraph
4.4).
The reusable cotton towels hotspot is the laundering process (heat, soap and electricity),
with around 54% of the environmental load. The transport also has, in comparison with
the non-reusable system, a high contribution to its total environmental performance. This
difference appears at the use phase because the reusable cotton rolls are heavier (in
Table 1). The fact that the vans do the delivering route two times the distance
(collection and deliver) also contributes to a bigger environmental impact.
The transport impact is not relevant and thus no sensitivity analysis will be carried out on
it. Furthermore, the waste scenario doesn’t influence the results obtained.
For further information see the network of the three types of towels in the appendix.
Detailed analysis on the environmental impact for which Vendor is responsible

Figure 5 - Detailed environmental impact of the towels at production phase at Vendor per
functional unit with Eco-indicator 99 H/A (in Points)

The electricity, mentioned in figure 5, corresponds to the electricity used to transform
the paper rolls supplied to Vendor into paper towels used at the hand drying dispensers.
The transport figure is the transport of the materials, paper and others, from the supplier
to Vendor. The waste presented is the one produced during the manufacturing of the
towels at Vendor.
The pulp contribution is responsible for over 68% of the burden and 27% is due to the
other materials input. This way, around 40% of the production’s environmental impact is
fossil fuels and 33% is land use.

4.2 Washing cycles
Comparison between Vendor paper towels and the reusable cotton towel with
different times of washing cycles
According to the report produced by the Öko Institut the reusable cotton towels were
reused between 70 and 130 times. This way, a default value of 100 cycles was used. A
sensitivity analysis on this will be done to see whether the results change with the
number of washing cycles or not.
Scenarios analysed
Scenario 1: Default
Scenario 2
Scenario 3

Washing cycles assumed
100x
70x
130x

Table 5 - Scenarios analysed according to the amount of times the reusable towel is used by the
client

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Pré Consultants B.V.

Functional unit: variable
Refill loss: 10%
Reuse times: variable
With end of life benefit
No pre-washing

Figure 6 - Comparison between the non-reusable paper towel with the reusable cotton towel per
functional unit changing the amount of times the towels are reused, with Ecoindicator 99 H/A (in Points)

The number of washing cycles doesn’t influence the results obtained. Though, with the
increase of washing cycles per cotton towel, the demand for towel production is smaller
and the waste generation also decreases. Even with 130 reuse times of the cotton towels,
paper towels are apparently better than the reusable towels.
The absorption capacity of cotton is over two times higher than paper’s. Consequently,
we could assume that the consumer would use at least two pulls of paper per each cotton
pull. However, it is important to mention that the absorption capacity of the reusable
cotton towels decreases with the washing although we have no information to what
extent this happens. Furthermore, the number of pulls also depends on the length and
width of one pull and on the consumer behaviour 2 . Based on these variables, it is difficult
to draw conclusions. We can say that, if the number of non-reusable paper pulls is 1.2
times higher it still has a lower or same environmental load as the reusable towels
(depending of the scenario).

4.3 Worst case scenario
Comparison between non-reusable paper towel and reusable cotton towel,
considering a worst case scenario
Functional unit: 1 pull
Refill loss: 20%
Reuse times: 70x
With end of life benefit
5 times pre-washed

2

8

No information about the reusable towels was available.
Pré Consultants B.V.

Figure 7 - Comparison between the worst case scenario of the reusable towels WC (worst case
scenario) and the default scenarios W (with end-of-life benefit) per functional unit
with Eco-indicator 99 H/A (in Points)

The cotton reusable towels are collected periodically at the client to go to the laundry
being replaced by new rolls. When the used rolls are collected the portion of the towel
that has not yet been used by the client is taken anyway to wash. This way, an
inefficiency of the hand drying device is taken into account. A default value of 10% losses
is taken into account but this value can reach 20%. This will be modelled in a worst case
scenario.
The worst case scenario was assumed to have: 5 times pre-washing of the towels before
use phase; 70 times reuse; with waste handling benefit; 20% use loss due to refill
inefficiency. In the worst case scenario, the environmental load of reusable cotton towels
can rise around 37% in comparison with the default (figure 7, Reusable cotton W).
A comparison between the non-reusable paper towels and the worst case scenario for the
reusable cotton towels was made. Considering worst case scenario, about 1,5 pulls of the
paper towel would be necessary to have a higher damage than the reusable cotton
towels.

4.4 Uncertainty analysis
A comparison between paper towels and cotton reusable towels was made to analyse
whether the small difference (see figure 4) is significant. The scenarios used were the
default scenarios with end-of-life benefit. Uncertainty analysis was run in all Ecoinvent
data used and also on the data available at the Öko report for the reusable cotton
towels. The results on normalization level are presented at figure 8.
The Eco-indicator single score (used in all presentations above) is expressed as a sum up
of three damage categories, depending on a set of weighting factors. These damage
categories are: Resources, Ecosystem Quality and Human Health. To go more in depth,
the uncertainty analysis is also run for these three categories.

9
Pré Consultants B.V.

Figure 8 – Uncertainty analysis comparing the paper towels with the reusable cotton towels with
Eco-indicator 99 H/A (with a 90% confidence interval): with underneath Human
Health on the left, Ecosystem Quality in the middle, and Resources on the right)

According to the uncertainty analysis for human health and resources, paper has a better
environmental profile than the reusable cotton towels. No information can be thrown
about the ecosystem quality performance because the uncertainty is too high. The high
uncertainty is mainly due to land use uncertainty data.
On the uncertainty analysis run for the single score, the paper has a 67% probability of
having a better environmental performance than the reusable cotton towels. This is due
to Ecosystem Quality, as stated above. Consequently, we cannot affirm that the paper
towels have a significantly better environmental performance than the reusable cotton
towels.

5 Areas of improvement
Based on the environmental analysis presented above, several suggestions and areas of
improvement can be mentioned:
Try to influence and reduce the towel consumption by:
o adding a comment at your paper towel device with the text - “Pull only
once”
o Adapting the towel device, for example by enhancing the break when the
towel is pulled.
Explore the use of recycled materials:
o
Use a certain percentage of recycled pulp, in order to make the difference
with cotton towels larger and thus more significant.
o
Add other recycled material such as polyester, if possible.

6 Items of communication
Put attention on only using one pull per hand drying!
o Only when consumers pull once, you assure that your on-reusable paper
towels are not worst than any type of cotton towels.

7 Conclusions
Based on a comparison of the environmental burden per pull of roller towel, the paper
non-reusable towels manufactured by Vendor are on environmental level not worse than
any cotton towel system analysed. Though, the difference in environmental burden
between the vendor paper towels and the cotton reusable towels is small. This difference
is significant with only 67% probability. Paper towels are though better in what comes to
Resources and Human Health damage categories. The number of non-reusable paper pulls
can be 1.2 times higher in order to obtain the lower or same environmental load than the
reusable towels (depending of the scenario).

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Pré Consultants B.V.

Appendix
Eco-Indicator 99
The Eco-indicators calculated here have been calculated with a specially developed
methodology. The details of this methodology can be found in the Eco-indicator 99
methodology report that is available from www.pre.nl.

Overview
The Eco-Indicator methodology is a damage oriented method. Not only the emission
effects are taken into account, but also the real damage that appears due to the
emission is considered. The Eco-Indicator method can be divided in three steps:
1. Inventory of all relevant emissions, resource extractions and land-use in all processes
that form the life cycle of a product. This is a standard procedure in Life Cycle
Assessment (LCA)
2. Calculation of the damages these flows cause to Human Health, Ecosystem Quality
and Resources
3. Assessing how serious the damage to ecosystems, human health or resources is
compared to each other. Weighting of these three damage categories.
The figure below gives an overview of the three different steps taken in Eco-Indicator 99
methodology:
Result of the
inventarisation:
Inventory list
Inventarisation of all
processes
in the LCA
of the
product

1

Resources

Land use

Damage to
resoucres
Model of
the damage
the
emissions,
land use
and
resources
use causes.

Emissions

2

Damage to
ecosystems

Damage to
human
health

Weighting
for the
three
different
damages

Indicator

3

Step 2: Damage
For each impact a damage model is developed. All impacts to human health are
expressed in the same unit, Disabled adjusted life years (DALY). For ecosystems all
impacts are expressed in potentially disappeared fraction of species (PDF) and for
resources in Surplus Energy. In order to be able to use the weights for the three damage
categories a series of complex damage models had to be developed and linked. In figure
underneath these models are represented in a schematic way.

Step 3: Weighting
The most critical and controversial step in a methodology as this is the weighting step.
For a panel of experts or non-experts it is very difficult to give meaningful weighting
factors for such a large number and rather abstract impact categories. In Eco-Indicator 99
weighting is performed on the three damage categories human health, ecosystem damage
and resource depletion. A panel of 365 persons from a Swiss LCA interest group [Mettier
1999] was asked to assess the seriousness of three damage categories. The reason for
choosing this group was the assumption that such a group would better understand the
questions posed to them. In spite of this limitation, we still use the results. The results
from this group indicate that the panellist find damage to Human Health and damage to
Ecosystem Quality about equally important while damage to Resources is considered to

11
Pré Consultants B.V.

be about half as important. This gives us an average weighting set of 40/40/20%
respectively.

Reusable cotton towels
1p
Öko cotton with

100%

0.00868 p
Öko cotton 10000
handdryings with
33.4%

1.55 kg
Öko cotton roll
with
33.4%

23.2 tkm
Transport, van
<3.5t/CH full S VD

155 kg
Laundering

6.54%

2.83E4 m
Operation, van <
3,5t/CH S
6.54%

54.6%

82.7 MJ
Electricity, medium
voltage, production
UCTE, at
4.85%

678 MJ
Heat, natural gas,
at boiler fan
burner
33%

30.9 tkm
Transport, lorry
20-28t, fleet
average/CH S
5.49%

4.04 kg
Soap, at plant/RER
S
20.5%

1.7 kg
Öko cotton cloth
with
30.8%

1.7 kg
Yarn, cotton, at
plant/GLO S
28.4%

Figure 9 – Network of the reusable cotton towels with Eco-indicator 99 (cut-off of 1%)

12
Pré Consultants B.V.

Non-reusable paper towels
1p
Vendor paper with

100%

1p
Vendor paper
10000 handdryings
with
98.1%

25.6 kg
Vendor paper roll
with
68.8%

1.53 tkm
Transport, van
<3.5t/RER S
2.92%

4.93 kg
Polyester resin,
unsaturated, at
plant/RER S VD
27.1%

30.5 kg
Municipal waste/NL
VD with
-1.69%

26.5 kg
Incineration/CH VD
with
-3.6%

26 kg
Vendor paper cloth
with
67.6%

28 kg
Sulphate pulp, TCF
bleached, at
plant/RER VD final

69.8 MJ
Electricity, medium
voltage, production
UCTE, at grid/UCTE

45.2%

5.11%

65.4 MJ
Electricity, at
refinery/RER S
8.5%

Figure 10 - Network of the non-reusable paper towels manufactured by Vendor with Eco-indicator
99 (cut-off of 2%)

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Pré Consultants B.V.

References
[1]
Eberle, U., Möller, M. 2006. “Life Cycle Analysis of hand-drying systems: A
comparison of cotton towels and paper towels”. Technical report. Öko Intitut e.V.
Freiburg, Germany.
[2]
SenterNovem 2005. “Nederlands afval in cijfers: gegevens 2000-2004. Uitvoering
Afvalbeheer”. 3UO0602, 185 p., Utrecht, The Netherlands - ISBN 90-5748-044-1.

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Lca study vendor_paper_towel_cassettes_vs_cotton_roller_towels

  • 1. LCA of two different hand drying systems A Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of non-reusable paper and reusable cotton towels Date: Version: Project number: Commissioned by: Executed by: Main author: Signature PRé Consultants bv Printerweg 18 3821 AD Amersfoort The Netherlands Phone +31 33 4555022 Fax +31 33 4555024 web site www.pre.nl Chamber of Commerce: 320 99 599 17 April 2008 Long version Vendor bv Robert de Jong PRé Consultants B.V. An De Schryver Marisa Vieira
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  • 3. Contents 1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................... 1 2 GOAL AND SCOPE ........................................................................ 1 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 FUNCTIONAL UNIT ................................................................................... 1 SYSTEM DESCRIPTION AND SYSTEM BOUNDARIES ...................................................... 1 2.2.1 Transport ................................................................................. 3 2.2.2 End of life ................................................................................ 4 DATA ............................................................................................... 5 ASSUMPTIONS AND SCENARIOS ....................................................................... 5 3 METHODOLOGY .......................................................................... 6 4 RESULTS ................................................................................. 6 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 DEFAULT SCENARIO ................................................................................. 6 WASHING CYCLES ................................................................................... 7 WORST CASE SCENARIO.............................................................................. 8 UNCERTAINTY ANALYSIS ............................................................................. 9 5 AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT ................................................................ 10 6 ITEMS OF COMMUNICATION.............................................................. 10 7 CONCLUSIONS ........................................................................... 10 APPENDIX ...................................................................................... 11 ECO-INDICATOR 99 ........................................................................................11 REUSABLE COTTON TOWELS ................................................................................12 NON-REUSABLE PAPER TOWELS .............................................................................13 REFERENCES ................................................................................... 14
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  • 5. Pré Consultants B.V. 1 Introduction Vendor has commissioned PRé Consultants to do a study on hand drying systems. In this study an environmental analysis of two types of hand drying systems will be carried out. The environmental analysis of products is carried out using a technique called Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The conventional way of looking at the environmental effects is focusing solely on one production process of one individual company. On the other hand, within the LCA technique the environmental impact of all processes, which can be related to the production, use, and disposal of a product are assessed. This means that the life cycle includes all processes from the collection or production of raw materials until the final disposal of the hand drying system. The data used to perform this study was provided by Vendor and by a report on life cycle analysis comparing hand drying systems done by the Öko Institut [1]. This document can not be published in public as it is not a peer reviewed study and it uses single score values to present the environmental impact. 2 Goal and scope This study has three main objectives: 1. The first goal is to compare the environmental profile of two hand drying systems: non-reusable paper towels and reusable cotton towels. The non-reusable hand drying system is manufactured by Vendor. The data for the system of reusable cotton towels is provided by the report performed by the Öko Institut already mentioned above. 2. The second goal of this study is to identify improvement areas in the production phase. 3. The third goal of the study is to provide communication opportunities for Vendor’s clients. 2.1 Functional unit To carry out this LCA analysis it is essential to have an identical reference parameter namely a functional unit. The functional unit can be defined as the amount of hand dryings. The functional unit is 10.000 hand dryings. The use of 1 pull per 1 hand drying will be assumed as the default value for every towel system, both reusable and non-reusable. Differences in consumer behavior and absorption capacity can influence this assumption. In the sensitivity analysis this will be analyzed. Towel type Paper non-reusable Cotton reusable Amount of paper/cotton needed for the hand drying of one person 1 pull (3,0g) 1 pull (16,2g) Amount of towel needed to fulfill the functional unit 30,45kg 1,62kg (used 100 times) Table 1 - Amount of paper/cotton used per functional unit for each hand drying system 2.2 System description and system boundaries A. Reusable cotton hand drying system A scheme of the life cycle of the reusable cotton towels can be seen in the following figure. 1
  • 6. Pré Consultants B.V. Figure 1 - System description of the reusable cotton towels hand drying system presented by Öko Institut [1] The cotton roll system uses cotton towels, which are reused by washing in professional laundries. The cotton rolls are produced and manufactured from cotton fibre (“lint”) from conventional agriculture. The processes included for the production of cotton rolls towels are spinning, weaving and wet processes. From the production site the cotton rolls go to laundries for washing and from there they are distributed to washrooms, where they are put into towel roll dispensers and used by washroom clients. After usage the cotton rolls are transported to laundries and washed in washing machines with different types of detergents and chemicals, used for hygiene washing processes. Whereas the electricity used for washing and finishing is provided by grid, the used steam is produced in-house. After 70 - 130 washing cycles the cotton rolls have reached the end of their life-time and are (in most cases) cut and used as disposable cleaning cloths. Both extreme washing times and a default of 100 washing cycles will be analysed. Finally, they are treated within a waste incineration plant. B. Non-reusable paper hand drying system A scheme of the life cycle of the non-reusable hand drying systems manufactured at Vendor can be seen in the following figure. 2
  • 7. Pré Consultants B.V. Figure 2 - System description of the non-reusable hand drying systems manufactured by Vendor In contrast to the reusable cotton rolls described above, the hand drying system supplied by Vendor is a one-way system using paper towels, which is not re-processed. The paper towels investigated are manufactured from fresh pulp. Pulp production and tissue paper manufacturing are the processes included for the paper rolls fabrication. The rolls are transported to Vendor. At Vendor, a laminating process of polyester layered between two paper towels takes place. Then the towels are cut, folded, and Velcro is added to each refill. The towels are transported from Vendor to the user hand dryers. After their use the towels are disposed as municipal waste and, part of it ends up in landfill but most of it is incinerated with energy recovery. The CO2 uptake from the trees used for the paper input is included in the analysis. The packaging input is not included for any of the studies. The infrastructures needed during the production of the product, like buildings or machinery, are not taken into account in the analysis. The hand drying device is not considered in the analysis. 2.2.1 Transport Transport of paper and cotton to and from the towel manufactory is included in the analysis. However, according to the hand drying system analysed, transport between the provider and the customer differs. A scheme of the transportation routes for the towels is presented in the figure below followed by its description. 3
  • 8. Pré Consultants B.V. Figure 3 - Scheme of the transport circuit of the towels For the non-reusable systems, the transport between Vendor and the costumer is done by a transport service. • The transport between the Vendor and the distribution centres is a single trip of 100km done by lorry of 28tons at its full capacity. • The transport between the distribution centre and the client is a single journey of 50km done by van. We assume the van is half loaded all the way, once it starts the circuit totally full and returns empty. For the reusable systems, • The transport between the client and the distribution centre is a single journey of 75km done by van. The van is completely loaded because when it leaves new towel rolls it also collects the ones that have already been used. • The transport between the distribution centre and the laundry is a return trip of 100km done by lorry of 28tons at its full capacity. The end-of-life transport is not included for any of the hand drying systems studied as we assume it is the same for every system. 2.2.2 End of life About the end of life of the hand drying systems, two situations occur: • For the non-reusable systems, the towel rolls under study end up in municipal waste. In the Netherlands, paper waste fractions are not recyclable, 87% is incinerated and the remaining is disposed in landfill [2]. The energy recovery during incineration is taken into account in the scenario ‘with benefit’ (W). Material Paper Polyester Polypropylene Energy recovery (MJ/kg) 4,09 10,51 11,28 Table 2 – Energy recovery during incineration per kg of paper, polyester, and polypropylene • 4 For the reusable system, we take into account the processes of washing the rolls, the transport between the laundry and the washroom, and the recycling as cleaning cloths. The benefit of recycling is assumed to be part of the life cycle
  • 9. Pré Consultants B.V. under study and thus is considered in our results. According to the market prices of the cotton rolls used in the washroom and the cleaning cloths, the recycling benefit is divided over the two purposes. Product Cotton towel Cleaning cloth Market value (€ per roll) 400 5,80 Division of the burden (%) 98,6 1,4 Table 3 - Percentage of the benefit of recycling the cotton towels based on the market value 88% of all cotton towels are being sold as cleaning clothes and the rest is being incinerated. As stated above, according to the market value, 98,6% of the environmental burden caused by the production of the towels sold as cleaning clothes is attributed to the cotton towel. The cleaning clothes are responsible this way for the remaining 1,4% of the environmental impact. For the environmental burden of the end of life of the cotton towels, a direct waste handling of 12% is taken into account plus the one already mentioned in the paragraph above. 2.3 Data Vendor provided the data regarding the non-reusable hand drying system by the response of questionnaires elaborated by PRé Consultants. Background data and data gaps, for instance for the production of some materials such as polyester, are based on existing and general databases. The background data used for the materials of this study are taken from the ecoinvent database 2.0 produced by the Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories. For screening purposes this is adequate to reveal where in the life cycle of the product systems the environmental hotspots occur and subsequently intensify the data collection on these areas. The Öko Institut report was used as basis for the reusable cotton towel system with the exception of the following: • The process of yarn cotton used at the report done by the Öko Institut was replaced by yarn cotton taken from the ecoinvent 2.0 database because it is a better documented and complete process. • It is taken into account the inefficiency of the refill of the towel dispensers caused by the replacement of rolls that still have part of the roll which has not yet been used. A loss of 10% per roll is the default value. • The soap from ecoinvent 2.0 was used in replacement of the detergents and chemicals used for the washing of the towels by lack of data. • The transport of cotton between Pakistan and the Netherlands was added. In order to be consistent, all the electricity figures included are an average European electricity mix from ecoinvent 2.0 database. 2.4 Assumptions and scenarios As several assumptions need to be taken during the analysis, different scenarios will be analysed to assess the sensitivity of the most important decisions made. The use of 1 pull per 1 hand drying will be assumed as the default value for every towel system, both reusable and non-reusable. Depending on the results of the default scenario (1pull for both systems), the sensitivity of the assumed functional unit will be assessed. The amount of pulls needed to produce the same environmental load for both systems will be calculated. There are two possible scenarios concerning the end of life described at the following table. 5
  • 10. Pré Consultants B.V. Scenarios Scenario 1: Default (W) Scenario 2: (WO) Assumption Producer of the waste receives all/part of the benefit of waste handling Producer of the waste receives no benefit Cotton recycling Division of the benefit of recycling over the different products based on market price No division at all; the entire environmental load is attributed to the cotton towel Incineration Energy recovery included Energy recovery excluded Table 4 - End of life scenarios analysed: with recycling benefit and without recycling benefit Depending on the results and what is the difference between taking or not into account the waste handling benefit, some measures concerning the end of life of the towels might be done. Different scenarios on the number of times the reusable cotton towels are washed are also analysed. Besides that, a worst case scenario for the cotton towels will be performed. 3 Methodology In this analysis Eco-indicator 99 will be used to calculate the environmental load of the systems under study. Eco-indicator 99 is developed by PRé Consultants on commission of the Dutch Ministry for Housing and Spatial Planning (VROM), in collaboration with scientists and industry. With this method, the environmental damage to human health, ecosystem quality and depletion of resources are all taken into account and can be expressed in one single score (Eco-indicator points 1 ). For additional information on the method, see appendix. 4 Results 4.1 Default scenario Comparison between the different hand drying systems using default scenarios Functional unit: 1 pull Refill loss: 10% Reuse times: 100x With/without end of life benefit No pre-washing Figure 4 - Comparison between the environmental impacts of the different towel systems analysed per functional unit using default scenarios with Eco-indicator 99 H/A (in Points) For the paper non-reusable towels the biggest burden is caused by the paper production. Less than 7% is attributed to transport. 1 6 An European inhabitant scores in average 1000 Eco-Indicator points.
  • 11. Pré Consultants B.V. The non-reusable paper towels have the lowest impact, although the difference with the reusable towels is not very large. At first sight it is unclear if the difference is significant. Consequently, an uncertainty analysis will be made to clarify this issue (see paragraph 4.4). The reusable cotton towels hotspot is the laundering process (heat, soap and electricity), with around 54% of the environmental load. The transport also has, in comparison with the non-reusable system, a high contribution to its total environmental performance. This difference appears at the use phase because the reusable cotton rolls are heavier (in Table 1). The fact that the vans do the delivering route two times the distance (collection and deliver) also contributes to a bigger environmental impact. The transport impact is not relevant and thus no sensitivity analysis will be carried out on it. Furthermore, the waste scenario doesn’t influence the results obtained. For further information see the network of the three types of towels in the appendix. Detailed analysis on the environmental impact for which Vendor is responsible Figure 5 - Detailed environmental impact of the towels at production phase at Vendor per functional unit with Eco-indicator 99 H/A (in Points) The electricity, mentioned in figure 5, corresponds to the electricity used to transform the paper rolls supplied to Vendor into paper towels used at the hand drying dispensers. The transport figure is the transport of the materials, paper and others, from the supplier to Vendor. The waste presented is the one produced during the manufacturing of the towels at Vendor. The pulp contribution is responsible for over 68% of the burden and 27% is due to the other materials input. This way, around 40% of the production’s environmental impact is fossil fuels and 33% is land use. 4.2 Washing cycles Comparison between Vendor paper towels and the reusable cotton towel with different times of washing cycles According to the report produced by the Öko Institut the reusable cotton towels were reused between 70 and 130 times. This way, a default value of 100 cycles was used. A sensitivity analysis on this will be done to see whether the results change with the number of washing cycles or not. Scenarios analysed Scenario 1: Default Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Washing cycles assumed 100x 70x 130x Table 5 - Scenarios analysed according to the amount of times the reusable towel is used by the client 7
  • 12. Pré Consultants B.V. Functional unit: variable Refill loss: 10% Reuse times: variable With end of life benefit No pre-washing Figure 6 - Comparison between the non-reusable paper towel with the reusable cotton towel per functional unit changing the amount of times the towels are reused, with Ecoindicator 99 H/A (in Points) The number of washing cycles doesn’t influence the results obtained. Though, with the increase of washing cycles per cotton towel, the demand for towel production is smaller and the waste generation also decreases. Even with 130 reuse times of the cotton towels, paper towels are apparently better than the reusable towels. The absorption capacity of cotton is over two times higher than paper’s. Consequently, we could assume that the consumer would use at least two pulls of paper per each cotton pull. However, it is important to mention that the absorption capacity of the reusable cotton towels decreases with the washing although we have no information to what extent this happens. Furthermore, the number of pulls also depends on the length and width of one pull and on the consumer behaviour 2 . Based on these variables, it is difficult to draw conclusions. We can say that, if the number of non-reusable paper pulls is 1.2 times higher it still has a lower or same environmental load as the reusable towels (depending of the scenario). 4.3 Worst case scenario Comparison between non-reusable paper towel and reusable cotton towel, considering a worst case scenario Functional unit: 1 pull Refill loss: 20% Reuse times: 70x With end of life benefit 5 times pre-washed 2 8 No information about the reusable towels was available.
  • 13. Pré Consultants B.V. Figure 7 - Comparison between the worst case scenario of the reusable towels WC (worst case scenario) and the default scenarios W (with end-of-life benefit) per functional unit with Eco-indicator 99 H/A (in Points) The cotton reusable towels are collected periodically at the client to go to the laundry being replaced by new rolls. When the used rolls are collected the portion of the towel that has not yet been used by the client is taken anyway to wash. This way, an inefficiency of the hand drying device is taken into account. A default value of 10% losses is taken into account but this value can reach 20%. This will be modelled in a worst case scenario. The worst case scenario was assumed to have: 5 times pre-washing of the towels before use phase; 70 times reuse; with waste handling benefit; 20% use loss due to refill inefficiency. In the worst case scenario, the environmental load of reusable cotton towels can rise around 37% in comparison with the default (figure 7, Reusable cotton W). A comparison between the non-reusable paper towels and the worst case scenario for the reusable cotton towels was made. Considering worst case scenario, about 1,5 pulls of the paper towel would be necessary to have a higher damage than the reusable cotton towels. 4.4 Uncertainty analysis A comparison between paper towels and cotton reusable towels was made to analyse whether the small difference (see figure 4) is significant. The scenarios used were the default scenarios with end-of-life benefit. Uncertainty analysis was run in all Ecoinvent data used and also on the data available at the Öko report for the reusable cotton towels. The results on normalization level are presented at figure 8. The Eco-indicator single score (used in all presentations above) is expressed as a sum up of three damage categories, depending on a set of weighting factors. These damage categories are: Resources, Ecosystem Quality and Human Health. To go more in depth, the uncertainty analysis is also run for these three categories. 9
  • 14. Pré Consultants B.V. Figure 8 – Uncertainty analysis comparing the paper towels with the reusable cotton towels with Eco-indicator 99 H/A (with a 90% confidence interval): with underneath Human Health on the left, Ecosystem Quality in the middle, and Resources on the right) According to the uncertainty analysis for human health and resources, paper has a better environmental profile than the reusable cotton towels. No information can be thrown about the ecosystem quality performance because the uncertainty is too high. The high uncertainty is mainly due to land use uncertainty data. On the uncertainty analysis run for the single score, the paper has a 67% probability of having a better environmental performance than the reusable cotton towels. This is due to Ecosystem Quality, as stated above. Consequently, we cannot affirm that the paper towels have a significantly better environmental performance than the reusable cotton towels. 5 Areas of improvement Based on the environmental analysis presented above, several suggestions and areas of improvement can be mentioned: Try to influence and reduce the towel consumption by: o adding a comment at your paper towel device with the text - “Pull only once” o Adapting the towel device, for example by enhancing the break when the towel is pulled. Explore the use of recycled materials: o Use a certain percentage of recycled pulp, in order to make the difference with cotton towels larger and thus more significant. o Add other recycled material such as polyester, if possible. 6 Items of communication Put attention on only using one pull per hand drying! o Only when consumers pull once, you assure that your on-reusable paper towels are not worst than any type of cotton towels. 7 Conclusions Based on a comparison of the environmental burden per pull of roller towel, the paper non-reusable towels manufactured by Vendor are on environmental level not worse than any cotton towel system analysed. Though, the difference in environmental burden between the vendor paper towels and the cotton reusable towels is small. This difference is significant with only 67% probability. Paper towels are though better in what comes to Resources and Human Health damage categories. The number of non-reusable paper pulls can be 1.2 times higher in order to obtain the lower or same environmental load than the reusable towels (depending of the scenario). 10
  • 15. Pré Consultants B.V. Appendix Eco-Indicator 99 The Eco-indicators calculated here have been calculated with a specially developed methodology. The details of this methodology can be found in the Eco-indicator 99 methodology report that is available from www.pre.nl. Overview The Eco-Indicator methodology is a damage oriented method. Not only the emission effects are taken into account, but also the real damage that appears due to the emission is considered. The Eco-Indicator method can be divided in three steps: 1. Inventory of all relevant emissions, resource extractions and land-use in all processes that form the life cycle of a product. This is a standard procedure in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) 2. Calculation of the damages these flows cause to Human Health, Ecosystem Quality and Resources 3. Assessing how serious the damage to ecosystems, human health or resources is compared to each other. Weighting of these three damage categories. The figure below gives an overview of the three different steps taken in Eco-Indicator 99 methodology: Result of the inventarisation: Inventory list Inventarisation of all processes in the LCA of the product 1 Resources Land use Damage to resoucres Model of the damage the emissions, land use and resources use causes. Emissions 2 Damage to ecosystems Damage to human health Weighting for the three different damages Indicator 3 Step 2: Damage For each impact a damage model is developed. All impacts to human health are expressed in the same unit, Disabled adjusted life years (DALY). For ecosystems all impacts are expressed in potentially disappeared fraction of species (PDF) and for resources in Surplus Energy. In order to be able to use the weights for the three damage categories a series of complex damage models had to be developed and linked. In figure underneath these models are represented in a schematic way. Step 3: Weighting The most critical and controversial step in a methodology as this is the weighting step. For a panel of experts or non-experts it is very difficult to give meaningful weighting factors for such a large number and rather abstract impact categories. In Eco-Indicator 99 weighting is performed on the three damage categories human health, ecosystem damage and resource depletion. A panel of 365 persons from a Swiss LCA interest group [Mettier 1999] was asked to assess the seriousness of three damage categories. The reason for choosing this group was the assumption that such a group would better understand the questions posed to them. In spite of this limitation, we still use the results. The results from this group indicate that the panellist find damage to Human Health and damage to Ecosystem Quality about equally important while damage to Resources is considered to 11
  • 16. Pré Consultants B.V. be about half as important. This gives us an average weighting set of 40/40/20% respectively. Reusable cotton towels 1p Öko cotton with 100% 0.00868 p Öko cotton 10000 handdryings with 33.4% 1.55 kg Öko cotton roll with 33.4% 23.2 tkm Transport, van <3.5t/CH full S VD 155 kg Laundering 6.54% 2.83E4 m Operation, van < 3,5t/CH S 6.54% 54.6% 82.7 MJ Electricity, medium voltage, production UCTE, at 4.85% 678 MJ Heat, natural gas, at boiler fan burner 33% 30.9 tkm Transport, lorry 20-28t, fleet average/CH S 5.49% 4.04 kg Soap, at plant/RER S 20.5% 1.7 kg Öko cotton cloth with 30.8% 1.7 kg Yarn, cotton, at plant/GLO S 28.4% Figure 9 – Network of the reusable cotton towels with Eco-indicator 99 (cut-off of 1%) 12
  • 17. Pré Consultants B.V. Non-reusable paper towels 1p Vendor paper with 100% 1p Vendor paper 10000 handdryings with 98.1% 25.6 kg Vendor paper roll with 68.8% 1.53 tkm Transport, van <3.5t/RER S 2.92% 4.93 kg Polyester resin, unsaturated, at plant/RER S VD 27.1% 30.5 kg Municipal waste/NL VD with -1.69% 26.5 kg Incineration/CH VD with -3.6% 26 kg Vendor paper cloth with 67.6% 28 kg Sulphate pulp, TCF bleached, at plant/RER VD final 69.8 MJ Electricity, medium voltage, production UCTE, at grid/UCTE 45.2% 5.11% 65.4 MJ Electricity, at refinery/RER S 8.5% Figure 10 - Network of the non-reusable paper towels manufactured by Vendor with Eco-indicator 99 (cut-off of 2%) 13
  • 18. Pré Consultants B.V. References [1] Eberle, U., Möller, M. 2006. “Life Cycle Analysis of hand-drying systems: A comparison of cotton towels and paper towels”. Technical report. Öko Intitut e.V. Freiburg, Germany. [2] SenterNovem 2005. “Nederlands afval in cijfers: gegevens 2000-2004. Uitvoering Afvalbeheer”. 3UO0602, 185 p., Utrecht, The Netherlands - ISBN 90-5748-044-1. 14
  • 19.