What is your Carbon Footprint?
The Carbon Footprint Reducing potential of 3D Printing
The simple fact is that many of the methods available to us for reducing carbon dioxide emissions are hiding in plain sight. While slapping solar panels on your roof will almost certainly have a positive effect on your family’s carbon footprint, that footprint is likely to be much more impacted by less-visible changes to the methods used to make the durable goods you use every day.
Some reports have suggested that the carbon “cost” of manufacturing a new car, for instance, might be greater than the carbon cost of actually driving the car into the ground. If we can lower the carbon cost of manufacturing that car, we can potentially make a bigger difference than we would by attempting to maximize miles per gallon over the life of the vehicle.
Perhaps no technology offers greater potential to reduce the carbon footprint of manufactured products than additive manufacturing (3D Printing).
A recent paper from researchers at Delft University of Technology predicts that additive manufacturing could reduce global energy usage by 25% by 2050. That is a massive impact! Even extremely aggressive scenarios for deploying renewable energy at enormous scale would have a hard time hitting that kind of impact on emissions. In order to understand why 3D printing provides such a huge lever on global energy usage, we need to dig into the details of how stuff is made.
Okay, enough about the overall reduction of the Carbon Footprint. Let’s talk about the Carbon Footprint of Disposable Masks made by manufacturers, the Homemade Masks and our 3D Printed StaySafeMask. What is the Carbon Footprint of all these different masks on the market today and what would be the best choice when you want to have the least impact on the environment regarding the Carbon Footprint?
Why the Carbon Footprint is so misunderstood
In the past two decades, general awareness of climate change and the concept of the “carbon footprint” has risen dramatically. But despite this growing awareness, the full complexity of the carbon footprint paradigm hasn’t made its way into popular consciousness.
A product’s carbon footprint measures the greenhouse gas emissions — commonly reported as carbon dioxide equivalents — at each stage of a product’s life. When we talk about the carbon footprint of a given product, like a gallon of milk, a car, or even a house, we have to take into account a number of different factors — some obvious, and some less so.
Although many consumers are aware of the impact of transportation on the carbon footprint of a product or activity (witness the popularity of carbon offsets for air travel, the increased use of electric cars), the total carbon footprint for a given product also includes crucial factors such as the materials used to make the product, and the manufacturing processes that turn those materials into end products.
In particular, manufacturing is popularly under appreciated and misunderstood in terms of its contribution to the carbon footprint of new products. But there’s a silver lining to this lack of awareness: advances in manufacturing technology offer huge potential to reduce the carbon footprint of manufactured goods and make a difference in the battle against climate change.
The key to unlocking that potential? That lies with additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. This is one of the reasons we manufacture StaySafeMask completely using 3D printing technology! See for yourself how much difference we can make with StaySafeMask compared to the Disposable Masks.
Carbon footprint comparison disposable, home-made and staysafemask
N95 Disposable MaskStandard N95 Mask mass manufacturing
per Mask in Grams:
Aluminium Strip - 1,5 Gram
Filter - Polypropylene - 6 Grams
Mask - Polypropylene - 27 Grams
Rubber Strap - 1 Gram
Energy, Packaging, Printing, Transport etc - 13 Grams
Home Made MaskHome-made fabric mask
per Mask in Grams:
Cloth - 12 Grams
Cotton Fabric - 12 Grams
Weaving Process - 12 Grams
Rubber Strap - 1 Gram
Sewing Materials, Energy, etc - 23 Grams
StaySafeMask3D Printed Tailored Fitting N95 Mask
per Mask in Grams:
Eco Bio-based CoPolymer - 12 Grams
N95 Filter - 3,5 Grams
Rubber Strap - 1 Gram
Exhale Valve Polypropylene - 3 Grams
Energy - 0,5 Grams
Reference of the calculations source:
what you see above is just part of the truth!
Of course, this is only half the truth. Not only because the use of the three kinds of masks is so different – also because of the way they are used.
This is actually a common problem when conducting a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), the technical analysis behind what we’re doing here. Different products are used differently during the use-phase. And the impact can vary drastically.
N95 face masks are recommended to only be used once and in a professional hospital environment often even restricted to just 4 hours. After 4 hours of use it has to be replaced by a new one and the old one is to be disposed. During the current shortage, some people advise to use them multiple times – but the maximum safety can only be guaranteed with single use!
In this case, the N95 mask becomes plastic waste on a daily basis. A medical worker would have to wear at least one mask per working day. (in a normal shift of 8-hours this might even be 2 per day)
The cotton mask, on the other hand, can be worn many times – it simply doesn’t have the same medical requirements. According to the CDC, it’s even fine to just wash it every once in a while. Since the StaySafeMask is a professional N95 mask we will only compare our StaySafeMask with the Disposable N95 mask, to keep comparing apples with apples.
Since the StaySafeMask is a durable and reusable N95 Mask that can be washed and sterilized for multiple uses and the N95-filter can be replaced by a new one per use. You can imagine the Life Cycle Assessment of these two masks shows quite a difference.
So, of course, after 30 days – the picture looks very different.
Be aware that this does not include washing and sterilizing the StaySafeMask is not included in the comparison.
So what does this all mean on a larger scale?
As we have seen in the comparisons above the differences between the different types of masks are quite high. Although the impact of a single mask is comparably low the scale of use we are looking at currently will change this perspective quite a bit!
Lets take a country as example and base a comparison calculation on the use of masks on this single country to see what the difference of single use disposable N95 versus N95 reusable StaySafeMasks would mean.
Germany for example has around 800.000 people working in the healthcare sector according to the statistics. On average they are using 17 million N95 masks currently per month!
17.000.000 Masks x 50 grams of CO2 per mask = 850.000kg CO2 per month!!!
What iF they use the Reusable N95 StaySafeMask?
If we take the published figures from Germany and use them to make a correct calculation in comparison to the N95 disposable mask usages it would mean the following.
We have 800.000 people working in healthcare in Germany using a little more than 1 Mask per month if we restrict the use to maximum of 20 times re-use after sterilization. This means the total need of reusable N95 StaySafeMasks would be 850.000 per month only instead of 17.000.000 disposable masks!
Of course we should not forget the replacement N95 filter in this calculation because they would need another 850.000 extra filters since the StaySafeMask comes with one filter when delivered standard. Taking all this into the calculation the results are staggering!!
850.000 reusable StaySafeMasks incl. 1 N95 Filter x 20 grams CO2 = 17.000kg CO2
850.000 N95 replacement filters x 6 grams CO2 = 5.100kg CO2
The use of reusable N95 StaySafeMasks would only produce 22.100kg CO2 per month!!!!
What about the waste reduction?
Disposing all these masks after a single use (4 to 8 hours) creates also a huge mountain of Garbage. Now we are just looking at the current situation in Germany, but can you imagine this on a Global scale?!
And this is not only something we need to change just for this Pandemic, but this is something we need to change forever! #reducereuserecycle
On a yearly basis Germany currently would use 204.000.000 N95 Masks that is around 4.080.000kg of waste. With a carbon footprint around 10.200.000kg CO2!!
If instead they would use reusable StaySafeMasks with replaceable N95 Filters the yearly waste production would be around only 561.000kg and 1.366.800kg CO2.
So that means a Waste Reduction of 95% and a 86% smaller Carbon Footprint compared to disposable N95 Masks!! Quite a difference, don’t you think…