Mass balance
and the circular economy

Today, brands are facing growing climate and environmental scrutiny from consumers, end users, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), investors and other stakeholders. That’s why they’re setting aggressive goals to include recycled content in products.

So how do brands meet these significant recycled content goals and ensure recycled materials are accurately and transparently accounted for? Businesses, brands, consumers and communities want to know how their decisions regarding recycled materials truly benefit the environment.

Enter an approach called mass balance.

Close up of recycled plastic pellets on researcher’s hand.


Defining mass balance

Mass balance is an accepted and certified protocol that documents and tracks recycled content through complex manufacturing systems. It's used when sustainable inputs like recycled plastic are mixed with traditional inputs like fossil-fuel-based feedstock.

At Eastman, we use both sources to make identical building blocks for materials. Because they’re identical, it is impossible to trace exact molecules to end products. However, we can record how much recycled plastic has been used in manufacturing and balance it with the certified recycled content in end products.

How mass balance works:

  1. Plastic waste is fed into Eastman’s molecular recycling technologies in place of fossil-fuel feedstock.
  2. That plastic is broken down into building-block molecules that are fed into production systems, resulting in fewer molecules being purchased or produced from fossil fuels.
  3. The quantity and identity of the recycled molecules are placed into an inventory that keeps a precise tally of how many of each molecule were recycled. (Remember, these molecules are indistinguishable from the building blocks produced with fossil feedstock.)
  4. Because Eastman tracks the exact number of molecules required to produce each Eastman Renew product, the appropriate number of molecules is deducted from the inventory when it is produced.
  5. Based on mass balance standards, Eastman is not allowed to sell more Renew products than it has created from recycling waste plastic.
  6. More waste plastic is fed into the system to replenish the inventory.

The alternative to mass balance is building a separate and redundant infrastructure. To duplicate the many reactors, purification columns, storage tanks, polymerization lines, and packaging and distribution systems would result in tremendous environmental impact and take decades.

International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) logo

Making claims with meaning

Mass balance is an accepted and certified method to measure and track recycled inputs and outputs. In fact, its principles are used in a number of industries like renewable energy and the cocoa industry. In molecular recycling, mass balance traces, measures and reports the number of recycled materials used to create a product. This method, certified by the International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC), measures recycled inputs and outputs and allows brands to report the percentage of recycled content allocated to manufactured products.

Mass balance is third-party certified to the ISCC PLUS standard, an international certification system for sustainable, traceable supply chains. Our partners use ISCC standards on an ongoing basis to ensure accuracy in the materials we use to make our products. This third-party certification provides transparency to track certified recycled content through critical points in the value chain, allowing brands to make claims with meaning.