The US EPA maintains a number of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission factor sets. These emission factors support a wide variety of sources, meeting the needs of a variety of users. One specialized emission factor set is the Recycled Content (ReCon) Tool. ReCon is a tool that EPA provides “…to help companies and individuals estimate life-cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy impacts from purchasing and/or manufacturing materials with varying degrees of post-consumer recycled content.” The ReCon tool is used to calculate the GHGs and energy savings for a variety of materials that typically contain recycled content, providing meaningful data for a variety of commonly purchased materials.
ReCon covers 17 materials, all which can contain varying amounts of recycled content. These materials include paper products, building materials, plastics, glass, etc. The Scope 5 implementation of ReCon provides the equivalent GHG emissions and energy conversion factors for these materials, all using the EPA reported values.
What’s Included in the Scope 5 ReCon Resource Library
The Scope 5 ReCon Resource Library holds GHG and energy conversion factors for the 17 materials identified by EPA in the ReCon tool. All the resources in the Scope 5 implementation of ReCon are “set” to 100% Recycled content. In practice, only some materials will be purchased at 100% recycled content (RC), such as glass and some paper products. The Scope 5 ReCon Resource library is a basic implementation of the EPA ReCon tool, and can be used to track the various ReCon materials purchased, or ReCon resources can be customized to track your organizations specific purchasing scenarios.
How to use the Scope 5 ReCon Resource Library
Scope 5 is agnostic, as to how Scope 5 users apply the information contained in the Scope 5 ReCon Resource library. This library is not intended to replace the ReCon tool, as provided by the EPA. The ReCon resource library is intended to help Scope 5 users track, monitor and analyze emissions associated with material purchasing.
Direct Use of the Scope 5 ReCon Resource Library
Example 1: Tracking the use of 100% RC office paper
In order to improve a company’s carbon footprint, the decision was made to move to the use of paper with 100% recycled content. Tracking the RC paper use, the Scope 5 user has chosen to use the Scope 5 ReCon resource, Office Paper ReCon. The connected Tracker requires the activity input be the amount of 100% RC paper purchased. The resulting information in Scope 5 shows the amount of GHGs avoided through purchasing of paper with highest available recycled content.
Example 2: A door manufacturer switches Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) source to MDF certified to be 80% Recycled Content (RC).
Our example manufacturer uses MDF to manufacture interior and exterior doors. The doors are mainly made of MDF. Until the switch in suppliers, the MDF consumed by the manufacturer was made of 100% virgin fiber. The new MDF is certified at 80% RC, with only 20% virgin fiber. The Scope 5 user would like to use the values from the ReCon library to track GHG savings realized from this switch in raw material.
The Scope 5 user identifies the Medium-density Fiberboard ReCon resource in the Scope 5 ReCon resource library. Taking a closer look at this resource, it is noticed that the value by default in the library is for 100% RC. To use this resource, the GHG emission factor has to be for the 80% RC. The Scope 5 user at the manufacturer will then customize the resource.
Going back to the Scope 5 ReCon resource library listing, the Scope 5 user makes a copy of the Medium-density Fiberboard ReCon resource in the Scope 5 library, by using the copy icon,.
This will bring the user to the Custom Medium-density Fiberboard ReCon page.
The Scope 5 admin make their changes on the Custom Medium-density Fiberboard ReCon resource page. The admin adds a new Conversion Factor set, starting at the date of the switch over. Alternatively, the admin could have simply edited the existing set of Conversion Factors, making sure to change the effective date of the change. Clicking “save” after making changes will bring you back to the conversion factor set(s) for this resource. Almost done, the Scope 5 user will then like to rename the resource and make other changes to where the resource is organized in the manufacturers customized Scope 5 library. To do this, the user clicks on the . Once the Scope 5 administrator is done with customizing the resource basic information, a tracker can be created that uses the new custom Purchasing resource.
Though Scope 5 technical support can assist in copying and editing resources, and other Scope 5 configuration tasks, Scope 5 recommends that an experience Sustainability professional who understands purchasing and lifecycle issues and EPA ReCon, be consulted in order to correctly configure a customized Scope 5 ReCon resource.
The GHG emission factors contained in the Scope 5 ReCon Resource Library are up to date to the latest version released by the EPA (version 5. Oct. 2010).
Scope 5 cannot guarantee that by using the Scope 5 ReCon Resource Library users will produce a report that is fully compatible with the EPA ReCon tool. We recommend working with a sustainability specialist versed in product lifecycle and GHG emissions reporting to be sure that your report will be fully compliant with the intended use. Please review the EPA Recycled Content (ReCon) tool to learn more about the tool and its uses.
Scope 5 can provide other customized resource libraries on a case-by-case basis.
Wolf Lichtenstein is the Principal of Lightstone Consulting, LLC and of Evergreen Carbon, an organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development through carbon offsets. With many years of auditing Greenhouse Gas inventories and carbon offset projects, Wolf has been a technical adviser to Scope 5 since 2010. Wolf may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com.