What is Life Cycle Assessment and How it helped BinFree to discover their contribution to the environment?

Life-cycle assessment for glass recyclables and deposit packages to discover our contribution to the environment.

2021 is behind the door and it’s been almost a year since the first pick up that BinFree delivered for deposit packages! With the incredible work of our intern, Udesh Wickramarathne, a life-cycle assessment was conducted for the pick up services operations for glass recyclables and deposit packages to discover our contribution to the environment.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is one of the techniques of environmental management being developed to assess possible environmental impacts associated with products/services. According to the ISO standards, LCA is defined as a method for analysing and determining the environmental impact along the product chain of the systems. LCA differs from other environmental methods by linking environmental performance to functionality, quantifying the pollutant emissions, and the use of raw materials based on the function of the product system.

environmental protection, nature, light bulb

Why BinFree collects deposit packages and recyclable glass?

BinFree offers pick up services for households, cafeterias and restaurants as well as companies that sort their waste and they want to contribute to their society and enrich themselves with knowledge regarding the environment, for deposit packages and recyclable glass packages.

  • Deposit packages

For deposit packages, a fee is charged on applicable beverage containers at the point of purchase, which retailers are required to collect from consumers. Intended to act as an incentive to recycle, deposits refunded when the consumer returns the empty container to an authorised redemption centre or retailer for recycling. For finding the closest reverse vending machine, Kuhuviia is an excellent digital tool that can help you. The deposit packages have assigned to their package the following labels:

BinFree collects the deposit packages to ensure that the end user recycles the packages and make the returning process smoother, faster and without any physical effort. We provide our service to the society to encourage the disposal of bottles and cans, and reward our clients’ efforts with financial incentives for sustainable purchases and blog articles regarding single use plastic alternatives such as menstrual cupsbamboo cotton budssolid dish soap and shampoos and stasher bags.

During the past 11 months, we have collected 5120 deposit packages from households and specifically:

17,4kg of equivalent plastic (with this quantity saved, 24 football teams can make their athletic shirts, as for every 7 plastic bottles, one football shirt can be produced according to Eesti Pandipakend)

261,8kg equivalent glass (quantity equivalent with 1377 Coca Cola 330ml bottles, as each bottle weighs just 0,19 kg).

27kg of equivalent aluminum  (quantity that would cover the production needs of 871 iPhones, considering the fact that each iPhone contains 0,031kg of aluminum  )

  • Recyclable glass

After a great demand of our clients, we decided to start collecting also recyclable glass for packages that are not included in the deposit system such as wine bottles, bottles from alcoholic beverages, glass jars from marmalades, sauces, children food, soups etc. as well as oil bottles. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity.

We are here to help you to get rid of this “guilty” habit that we all have – keeping empty glass jars in a cupboard that we never use. We have unoccupied these cupboards space in many households, releasing space and sometimes we even received bottles from 19th century! We have noticed that creating a relationship of trust and reassurance can bring an increase in the consumers’ patterns regarding the packaging and specifically a preference on glass packaging than plastic, as it is known that the package will be safely and appropriately disposed of.

 We have collected 460kg of recyclable glass and thanks to our partner TVO, we were able to deliver them to recycling facilities and ensure its safe disposal. Recycled glass can be used in the production chain to make a new glass bottle, a soup or a marmalade jar.

  • What would happen without BinFree?

In Tallinn, a major amount of general waste ends up either to incineration plant or to a sanitary landfill. One of the main reasons that waste can end up there, is lack of sorting from the consumers’ side. Taking this into consideration, we analysed and measured the environmental impact in case of landfill and incineration, the amount of deposit packages and glass recyclables collected by us, taking into account 3 main variables: climate change, acidification and human toxicity.

Incineration plant
Climate Change kg CO2 eq 4.07E+01
Acidification kg SO2 eq 5.61E-03
Human Toxicity kg 1,4-DB eq 1.91E+00

Data used from the LCA conducted in November 2020

Climate Change kg CO2 eq 2,87E-01
Acidification kg SO2 eq 4,50E-05
Human Toxicity kg 1,4-DB eq 1,48E+01

Data used from the LCA conducted in November 2020

During the period 01/01/2020 to 22/12/2020, the carbon footprint generation of our waste collection process was:

Carbon footprint of the collection process
Km completed 673
kg CO2 eq 180,2

Data used from the LCA conducted in November 2020

According to the above results, waste incineration has the highest impact on all 3 environmental impact categories. Specifically, if the quantities described above 17,4kg of equivalent plastic721,8kg equivalent glass and 27kg of equivalent aluminum were incinerated would emit 40.17kg of equivalent CO2 to the environment which would contribute to climate change0.00561kg of equivalent SO2 would emit to cause the acidification in air and water, and 7.13 kg of equivalent 1,4-DB will emit into the environment which is toxic to the human health.

We have committed to minimise the possibility of releasing these pollutants to the environment by collecting the materials and recycling them, saving CO2 emissions from incineration. We have achieved to maintain a positive carbon footprint besides the transportation carbon emissions from the collection process (180,2kg of equivalent CO2).

BinFree has saved with its operations 538,69kg of equivalent CO2 emissions!

We are very proud for this work and we wish for a prosperous continuation of our activities and contribution to the society and the environment! We are open to suggestions, collaborations and solutions that might help us minimize the impact of our transportation and collection methods and we are happily announcing that from 2021, it would be possible to make an impact analysis for each pick-up, upon request.

By Katerina Chantzi from BinFree, Estonia


This publication has been prepared within SENBS project No. 2020- 1-EE01-KA204-077999. The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of the project coordinator and may not always reflect the views of the European Commission or the National Agency.