Blog by EPEA: Scaling up ‘Material Health’

By: Hein van Tuijl (EPEA Nederland)

In the past year of blog writing for C2C-Centre, EPEA emphasized the importance of using the right, healthy, materials as a cornerstone of Cradle to Cradle and circular economy. Click here to read these blogs. The definition of materials on what we call ‘nutrient potential’ is key to the creation of biological and technical cycles of material flows. These cycles in turn, were adopted as the basis for the circular economy in the 2012 and 2013 Ellen MacArthur / McKinsey publications ‘Towards the circular economy’ (1 and 2). Click here to go to these library items.

As we near the end of 2014, Cradle to Cradle and circular economy are central concepts to a vast number of companies in The Netherlands. The time of pioneering is slowly making way for a next phase, in which the scale- up of Cradle to Cradle becomes effective.
A larger ‘middle group’ is now reaping the benefits of the work of front running companies in the past. Front runners in turn are gently pushed to keep on driving innovation in order to maintain their leadership position. One can notice a certain positive competition shaping the market; a competition that will hopefully lead to a larger ‘middle group’ in 2015, and a resolute group of frontrunners determined to push their innovation agenda ever further.

Scaling up; Material Health registry
An important recent development that supports growth of the ‘middle group’ is the introduction of a public registry for healthy and recyclable materials. The launch of this registry was announced by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2C PII) a few weeks ago.
Materials that enter the registry have to be subjected to the Cradle to Cradle material assessment methodology by an accredited assessment body, for instance EPEA. The results are summarized in a report that is finally audited by C2C PII.

Material Health assessment
To determine materials quality, each chemical in each homogenous material is subject to chemical hazard profiling using a “traffic light” hierarchy based on 24 human health, environmental health and chemical class endpoints. Examples of endpoints are amongst others Carcinogenicity, Acute Fish Toxicity and Toxic metals. The chemical hazard profiling of each endpoint is then used in conjunction with the exposure assessment of the chemical to come to a single chemical risk assessment. Exposure assessment includes the definition of product interaction scenarios and characterization of environmental fate.  Subsequently the single chemical risk assessments of each chemical in the homogenous material together with the cyclability assessment of the material makes up the final risk assessment for a material which is given an ABC-X rating. ABC-X can be interpreted as such: X (problematic phase-out), C (acceptable) or A/B (OK) on the basis of human and environmental health criteria and form the basis for continuous optimization.

Suppliers are awarded a Material Health Certificate at the levels Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum. The public registry will list all suppliers and materials that were subjected to the methodology, making them visible and accessible to demanding parties worldwide. Click here for more information.

Supply side solutions
Working directly with manufacturers on materials optimization, we know how dependent they often are on supply chain partners to realize their own Cradle to Cradle goals. Suppliers in turn may wonder if their efforts in material research and ultimately optimization will be rewarded sufficiently, especially when the demanding manufacturer is a relatively small customer.
Material Health certificates and the associated registry offer an opportunity to consolidate the approach. Firstly, optimized or new C2C materials will become visible from a centralized place to a wide audience, enabling the producer to reach new customers. Secondly, the registry may function as a platform for companies to jointly approach suppliers with a similar request for specific materials. 
This development has the potential to leverage C2C material use and provide new and existing Cradle to Cradle companies with a solid baseline; using the right materials from the very start.
With a larger group of companies now enabled to enter the realm of Cradle to Cradle and circular economy at a high level, it becomes increasingly important for the frontrunners to take next steps in order to consolidate their leading position. Let’s see where this positive competition will lead us in 2015! 


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