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A condom’s footprint - life cycle assessment of a natural rubber condom

  • einhorn products GmbH

Abstract and Figures

Purpose: Worldwide, billions of condoms are used each year, and many brands popped up that are working on sustainable solutions. However, none has published an analysis of a condom’s life using a standardized and quantitative approach such as the life cycle assessment (LCA). This study presents the first LCA of a natural rubber condom from einhorn products GmbH. It has been conducted to identify environmental hotspots, future research needs along the entire life of a condom and to open up a discussion among interested stakeholder. Methods: The assessed environmental impacts are climate change, water depletion, eutrophication, ecotoxicity, acidification, human toxicity, and photochemical oxidant formation. The data were obtained by intensive literature research and consultation of customers and suppliers. Results and discussion: The hotspot assessment showed that, on average, more than 90% of impacts are contributed by the production and downstream phases. Activities contributing most are energy consumption and packaging material used during condom production, production of tissue paper used to discard condoms, international transport, and business travels. The upstream life cycle phases do show minor contributions to most of the categories except for ecotoxicity, where the plantation activities are responsible for around 50% of the emissions. However, the impact of plantation might be underestimated because of missing analysis of biodiversity for countries where rubber is responsible for deforestation the contribution of the plantation could increase. Conclusions: The results highlight the importance of the condom's production, packaging, and the end-of-life stage. Future research should address the sensitivity of the results regarding further impact categories and should verify assumptions made and fill data gaps within the inventory.
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Acondoms footprint - life cycle assessment of a natural rubber
Maik Birnbach
&Annekatrin Lehmann
&Elisa Naranjo
&Matthias Finkbeiner
Received: 3 January 2019 /Accepted: 8 October 2019 /Pu blished online: 12 February 2020
Keywords Condom .Natural rubber .Footprint .Life cycle assessment .LCA .Environmental impact .Hotspot
1 Introduction
Condoms are an important tool of the safer sex concept as they
are used not only for contraception but also to protect against
sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV/AIDS (ISO
4074 2015). Around 241 million condoms are being sold annu-
ally in Germany (BZgA 2015), while several billions are sold
globally. Top global condom vendors are, for example, Church
& Dwight, Ansell, and Reckitt Benckiser (Research and Markets
2017). They are mainly made from natural rubber while other
materials are lamb skins or synthetic rubber, such as polyisoprene
or polyurethane (Marfatia et al. 2015).
It is known that natural rubber plantations can pose high risks
to the local environment, such as deforestation and loss of biodi-
versity, loss of soil productivity, water quality, and quantity, to
name but a few (Ahrends et al. 2015;Chenetal.2016;
Haustermann and Knoke 2018). Biodiversity risks are increased
as these plantations are mainly located in South East Asia (FAO
2016). At the level of latex processing and condom production,
energy, water and a diverse amount of chemical substances are
consumed in order to change the raw material properties making
Responsible editor: Yi Yang
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article
( contains supplementary
material, which is available to authorized users.
*Maik Birnbach
einhorn products GmbH, 10997 Berlin, Germany
Chair of Sustainable Engineering, Technical University Berlin,
10623 Berlin, Germany
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (2020) 25:964979
The Author(s) 2020
Purpose Worldwide, billions of condoms are used each year, and many brands popped up that are working on sustainable
solutions. However, none has published an analysis of a condoms life using a standardized and quantitative approach such as
the life cycle assessment (LCA). This study presents the first LCA of a natural rubber condom from einhorn products GmbH. It
has been conducted to identify environmental hotspots, future research needs along the entire life of a condom and to open up a
discussion among interested stakeholder.
Methods The assessed environmental impacts are climate change, water depletion, eutrophication, ecotoxicity, acidification,
human toxicity, and photochemical oxidant formation. The data were obtained by intensive literature research and consultation of
customers and suppliers.
Results and discussion The hotspot assessment showed that, on average, more than 90% of impacts are contributed by the production
and downstream phases. Activities contributing most are energy consumption and packaging material used during condom production,
production of tissue paper used to discard condoms, international transport, and business travels. The upstream life cycle phases do
show minor contributions to most of the categories except for ecotoxicity, where the plantation activities are responsible for around
50% of the emissions. However, the impact of plantation might be underestimated because of missing analysis of biodiversity and
especially for countries where rubber is responsible for deforestation the contribution of the plantation could increase.
Conclusions The results highlight the importance of the condom's production, packaging, and the end-of-life stage. Future
research should address the sensitivity of the results regarding further impact categories and should verify assumptions made
and fill data gaps within the inventory.
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979 965
it suitable for rubber products. For example, tetramethylthiuram
disulfide (Thiram) is used to process natural rubber for products
like gloves and condoms. It is classified as endocrine disruptor
(causing hormonal effects) and listed as substance of very high
concern under the SIN list (ChemSec 2018).
Offering more sustainable condoms has been a goal for a
variety of international brands (e.g., einhorn products, Sustain,
Glyde, Fair Squared) focusing on a range of issues from fight
against HIV, ban of harmful substances, and vegan condoms all
the way to fair trade and transparency. However, to the authors
knowledge, only one descriptive study from Dresen et al.
(1993) is focusing on environmental impact of condoms and
its supply chain. An analysis of a condomslifeusingastan-
dardized and quantitative approach towards environmental sus-
tainability has not been conducted or published, so far. Hence,
this study is meant to dare a first step into this knowledge gap.
This chapter first outlines the assessment framework
employed for the LCA. Afterwards, the inventory data used
for the assessment are described for each life cycle stage.
2.1 Goal and scope
The goal of this study is to examine the environmental
of a condom's life cycle and to identify data gaps.
Hence, an environmental LCA for a male condom has been
conducted. Table 1highlights the functional unit and reference
flow used for the assessment. The condom studied is from the
company einhorn products GmbH (einhorn). Its life is shown in
Fig. 1highlighting the foreground phases of natural rubber
plantation, latex processing, condom production, einhornsof-
fice (i.e., corporative activities, such as research and develop-
ment), and end-of-life. Included background processes are giv-
en in dashed boxes. The timeframe assessed is one year from
June 2015 (start of the online shop of einhorn) to May 2016.
2.2 Impact assessment and methods
The following midpoint impact categories are assessed: cli-
mate change, terrestrial acidification, terrestrial ecotoxicity,
water depletion, freshwater eutrophication, human toxicity,
and photochemical oxidant formation (ReCipe (hierarchist)
(v.1.1, 2014) (Goedkoop et al. 2013)). The choice of impact
categories is based on Jawjit et al. (2015, p. 86) who assessed
environmental impacts of natural rubber processing and used
most of the impact categories employed here. Added are
ecotoxicity and water depletion.
A single score value has been used to screen for sen-
sitivity of assumptions made. This is not the classical way
doing a sensitivity analysis, but it made the screening for
potential points of importance faster because many of the
inventory data were set up newly. The single score is
derived from the endpoint categories damage to human
health,”“damage to ecosystems,and damage to re-
sources(incl. normalization and weighting (40% human
health, 40% ecosystems, 20% resources)); hence, it should
be noted that more than the five midpoint indicators listed
above are combined to calculate this single score
(Goedkoop et al. 2013). Results of the sensitivity analysis
are summarized in Section 3.3.
The identification of hotspot life cycle stages (compare
Section 3.4) is based on equal weighting of all impact
categories. This approach was favored instead of the
single-score methodology (as used for sensitivity analy-
sis), because it was easier to understand for decision
makers in the company einhorn although it means that
two different weighting methodologies have been used
in the study (see Section 3.3). In a first step, an average
has been calculated from the contribution of a life cycle
stage to all impact categories applied. In a second step, a
color scheme has been applied to categorize life cycle
stages to highest (contribution over 40%), high (contribu-
tion 1020%), medium (contribution 510%), and minor
(contribution less than 5%) impacts. This approach fol-
lows one of the suggestions given by the Life Cycle
Initiative (UNEP 2017).
Open LCA (v.1.5) has been employed using Ecoinvent
(v.3.2. APOS) for background processes. Decision on type
of data used is related to whether the process unit is within
foreground or background. For foreground phases, the most
specifically available data form has been used (mainly gate-to-
gate company data), while for background units, mainly ge-
neric data were employed. Data for all foreground phases are
partly gathered by questionnaire (condom production and cor-
porative activities) and consultation. Further, foreground data
are collected via desktop research. With regard to consistency
allocation procedures are in line with Ecoinvent data quality
guidelines (Weidema et al. 2013).
2.3 Inventory
This chapter provides an overview of inventory data used. The
Electronic Supplementary Material provides an overview of
activities included, data limitations, assumptions, and alloca-
tions made. The allocated datasets are freely available on
einhornswebsite( and will be
updated regularly.
In this study, the term hotspotrefers to the major contributors to the envi-
ronmental impact (UNEP/SETAC 2009,p.60)
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2.3.1 Natural rubber plantation
The raw material for the product system studied is field
harvested from the rubber tree (Hevea
brasiliensis). Latex is a white, milky suspension (also
called latex milk) consisting of rubber and non-
rubber particles in water (Sethuraj and Mathew 1992;
Petsri et al. 2013). It contains a dry rubber content
(DRC) of about 35% (± 15%), 45% of non-rubber
particles, and about 60% water (Sethuraj and Mathew
1992;MRB2009). Natural rubber itself consists mainly
out of polyisoprene (C
) with a carbon content of
88% per kilogram of dry rubber (Petsri et al. 2013).
Latex is literally tapped from the rubber tree by cutting
the bark, which is why the harvesting process is re-
ferred to as tapping.The main activities in a natural
rubber plantation are preparing the land, establishing
and maintaining the plantation, and harvesting.
The data for the natural rubber plantation are derived
from field survey, consultation, and literature research.
The latter has been used mostly to reflect the plantation
cycle of 25 years (Petsri et al. 2013), while the other
methods were used to assess the status quo of the planta-
tion under consideration. For example, the average yield
for plantations in Kedah (i.e., in 1025 kg/(ha x year)
(MRB 2009)) has been used here to reflect local condi-
tions over the whole plantation cycle, while the current
yield of the plantation represents around 60% of the av-
erage value.
The compiled activity data
(see Table 2)arebased
on an annual mean over the plantation cycle of 25
years. Afterwards, the land is prepared for a new plan-
tation or other uses. Harvesting activities are included
for 19 years only because harvesting starts when the
trees become adult. Maintenance activities are accounted
for the whole plantation cycle.
The considered plantation is located in the region of Kedah
(Malaysia) and has an area of 80 ha with about 450 trees per
hectare. The plantation started its current plantation cycle
in 1994. Half of the present rubber trees were planted in
1996. Prior to 1994, the area has been used as rubber
plantation at least once (information from field survey)
Based on this, the land preparation for the given plan-
tation was mainly felling the natural rubber trees prior
plantation. Felling by sawing machine is commonly
used in Malaysia (MRB 2009). After felling the trees,
roots are pulled out of the ground, and the remaining
biomass is incinerated (Petsri et al. 2013). Greenhouse
gas emissions (CO
O) from biomass incinera-
tion have been included based on emission factors from
IPCC 2006 methodology provided by Petsri et al.
(2013). Not included here is land preparation, such as
terracing, road construction, and the like, because it can
be assumed that infrastructure already existed from pre-
vious usage (for further information, see MRB (2009)).
The included activities for plantation maintenance cover
consumption of fertilizer, fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides
and their water consumption. Direct emissions from agrochem-
ical application are calculated in compliance with Ecoinvent
database (Nemecek and Schnetzer 2011; Nemecek et al.
2016). However, heavy metal emissions from agrochemicals
have not been included due to missing data on soil erosion and
heavy metal uptake of rubber trees. Furthermore, not included
are packaging of agrochemicals and their application and water
consumption for cleaning the site. Additional irrigation is not
applied at the given plantation. All assumptions and limitations
are listed in the Electronic Supplementary Material. These
points can be marked as future research question.
Harvesting is done manually; hence, it is a very labor-
intensive process. The bark is cut in a certain manner
be collected in cups and transported to a collection
point. Due to lack of data, only the application of pre-
servatives and stimulation is included. Ammonia is a
common preservative in Malaysia (alternatives are,
e.g., sodium sulfite or formalin) to stop the coagulation
process, depending on the time between tapping and further
processing (Webster and Baulkwill 1989; Sethuraj and
(Natural) rubber latex, caoutchouc, field, and fresh latex are commonly used
as synonyms. We are following the definitions of DIN ISO 1382:2012.
Technically, rubber latex changes into rubber during vulcanization process,
following Dresen et al. (1993).
Activity data are understood here as all inventory data belonging to a phase,
e.g., the activity of producing latex.
The assessment of land use change has been neglected here using a meth-
odology of Milà i Canals et al. (2012) to screen the importance of direct land
use change (also used within Ecoinvent database). Following the approach,
land use change is important if all three subsequent points are met (Nemecek
et al. 2016, p. 6): crop area in the country and the corresponding land type
increasedin the considered time period and natural ecosystems (i.e., forest and
other lands) decreased. Following Nemecek et al. (2016, p. 6), FAOSTAT data
are used here to screen the importance of land use change for natural rubber in
Malaysia, and it was found that during 1994 and 2014, the area allocated to
natural rubber in Malaysia decreased by around 2% (or for the timeframes
considered by Nemecek et al. (2016), 19891991: 1.07% and 20082010:
Table 1 Study overview
Product studied Condom incl. packaging system
Functional unit Contraception and protection against sexual transmitted
infections during one act of sexual intercourse.
Reference flow One condom
Assumption: The possibility that more than one condom is used during
sexual intercourse (e.g., due to wrong application or material malfunction
of the first condom) is neglected here
966 Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979
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Fig. 1. Product system studied (background processes in dashed boxes)
Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979 967
Mathew 1992;MRB2009). Next to that, the rubber trees can
be stimulated in order to increase their yield. The active ingre-
dient of a common Malaysian stimulant is ethylene gas that is
applied to the trees bark and evaporates to the air (MRB
2009). However, no further information about that process
has been found, which is why ethylene gas emissions are not
included. The same accounts for possible ammonia volatiliza-
tion during the collection process. Tools, such as the tapping
knife and headlight, organic litter, consumed river water for
cleaning, as well as the transport of harvested latex and by-
products to the collection point and the plantation building
itself have not been included due to lack of data. They should
be included in the next iteration of the dataset.
By-products of field latex are field coagula, rubber wood,
and seeds. Field coagulum is latex that already coagulated in
the field (e.g., cup lumps or tree laces) and can be used to
produce block rubber. Rubber seeds can be used for propaga-
tion or oil production while rubber wood is sold to furniture
industry, for example (MRB 2009).
Economic allocation has been applied to represent the contri-
butions of fresh latex only (using prices as given within Table 2,
cp. column for original data). Mass allocation has been rejected
as the co-product rubber wood holds close to 80% of produced
wet mass (cp. Table 3). For carbon sequestration, allocation is
based on carbon content of the products. This means that only the
carbon content of latex itself has been considered. From a life
cycle perspective, it becomes clear that biogenic carbon bound in
products and by-products (latex, wood, and seeds) of the planta-
tion is released as emissions from incineration processes
employed at end-of-life treatment for instance. Therefore, only
the biogenic carbon bound in latex has been included as only its
life cycle is assessed (i.e., 88% of dry matter). Both allocation
procedures are in compliance with Ecoinvent database
(Jungbluth et al. 2007; Weidema et al. 2013).
2.3.2 Latex processing
The dry rubber content of the fresh latex needs to be concen-
trated to 60% to be used for condom production (MRB 2009).
Basic activities are precipitation of magnesium content,
centrifuging the latex, and additional chemical preservation.
Skim block rubber is produced as a by-product. The fresh
latex is processed by a company located in Kedah, Malaysia.
Because of missing site-specific data, the activities consid-
ered within the study at hand are based on literature. The
accuracy of these data (see Table 4)incomparisontoon-
site data is important for future research. The implemen-
tation of the literature data, its limitations, and adjust-
ments are explained in the subsequent texts.
Twodifferent studies analyzing 4 and 10 processing sites in
Thailand (Chaiprapat et al. 2015; Jawjit et al. 2015) were
found to be most comprehensive and best meet the system
boundary considered here (i.e., using centrifugation and skim
rubber block production as by-product). However, both stud-
ies do not give information on dry rubber content which will
influence the output in terms of concentrated latex. In addi-
tion, the studies do relate to high ammonia content while for
the condom low ammonium content is needed for the proc-
essed latex. Hence, the amount of fresh latex needed to pro-
duce concentrated latex has been calculated based on Webster
and Baulkwill (1989). This resulted in 2.17 kg fresh latex
(35% DRC) needed to produce 1 kg of concentrated latex
(60% DRC) and 0.056 kg of skim block rubber.
Energy and water consumption are derived from the above-
mentioned studies. Their average amounts have been related
to the input of fresh latex calculated previously. Furthermore,
the average amount of DAP (diammonium (hydrogen) phos-
phate; regulating magnesium content prior to concentration)
from both studies has been added. The wastewater equals the
sum of water input and the difference of water in fresh and
concentrated latex and rubber and solids lost during the pro-
cess (rainwater and evaporation are excluded).
Concentrated latex needed for condom production is the
low ammonium one (LA-type), containing less than 0.3% of
preserving ammonia (ISO 2010). The so-called LA-TZ pre-
servative system is used here. It has been the most popular in
the past (Webster and Baulkwill 1989;SethurajandMathew
1992), although it contains TMTD which is known to form
nitrosamines that can remain in the final products and is
classified as endocrine disruptor according to the SIN list.
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Limitations of the data given here are missing NH
ization emissions from deammonification, missing data for
wastewater treatment (except electricity), emitted hydrogen
sulfide and methane specific to latex-processing sites, and
missing information about black and pond rubber production.
As the fate of added chemicals is not completely clear, an
unspecified mass of 0.01 kg per kilogram of concentrated
latex is added to the output side in order to keep the mass
balance. This can be marked as further research question.
The used data are allocated according to economic val-
ue, because there is no major difference between econom-
ic and physical allocation and it is consistent with alloca-
tion methodology used in Ecoinvent (Weidema et al.
2013) and other processes within the studied system.
Table 2 Natural rubber plantation, activity data (annual average over 25 years plantation cycle), not allocated
Activity Unit Inventory data
[unit/(ha year)]
Original data
Input Harvesting wood
Power sawing Machine hour 2.34 125 l gasoline per hectare (Petsri et al.
2013), Ecoinvent dataset for power
sawing: 2.13 l gasoline per machine
hour (Magnusson et al. 2000)
Biomass residues after harvest, to be incinerated tonne 1.74 43.54 kg/ha after plantation cycle (Petsri
et al. 2013)
Plantation maintenance & harvesting latex
N fertilizer kg 34.75 Fertilizer application according to field
survey (including immature (first 6
years) and mature phases (19 years))
P fertilizer kg 31.07
K fertilizer kg 41.84
Mg fertilizer kg 2.64
Insecticides kg 0.34 Average application in Malaysia between
2006 and 2013 (FAO 2016); herbicide =
glyhphosat, fungicides = triazole
Herbicides kg 5.21
Fungicides & bactericides kg 1.23
Water (for plant protection) m
0.56 100 liter/kg active ingredient (excl.
fungicides), informed guess (MRB
2009; Petsri et al. 2013)
Ammonia (preservation) kg 6.68 0.3% of latex weight (wet mass), average
value (Webster and Baulkwill 1989;
Sethuraj and Mathew 1992;MRB2009)
Ethephon (stimulation) kg 0.51 0.75 g/tree, 2 times a year (application
possible 212 times year, but only done
irregularly at plantation), applied during
mature phase (i.e., 19 years) (MRB
Output Products
Fresh latex (60% wet mass) kg 2225.71 1025 kg/(ha year), average yield for soil
in Kedah, harvested only during mature
phase (i.e., 19 years) (MRB 2009), price
(average 20142016): 4.61 MYR/kg
(dry mass) (MRB 2016)
Field coagulum (50% wet mass) kg 445.14 20% of fresh latex production (MRB
2009), price (average 20142016): 2.11
MYR/kg (wet mass) (MRB 2016)
Timber, felled (50% wet mass) kg 10,749.84 600 kg/tree (dry) after plantation cycle
(Petsrietal.2013), 448 trees/ha (field
survey), price: 0.15 MYR/kg (wet mass)
(MTIB 2016)
Rubber seeds (50% wet mass) kg 114.00 300 kg/ha((Ng et al. 2013), 50% harvested
during mature phase (i.e., 19 years),
price: 1 MYR/kg (wet mass) (Ng et al.
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Table 5lists the allocation factors highlighting that the
difference between both is marginal.
2.3.3 Condom production
After concentration, the latex is ready to be used for the pro-
duction of condoms. The processes involved are preparing the
latex compound (with chemicals), dipping, vulcanization,
stripping and cleaning, testing, and packaging. The condom
production of the condoms takes place at Richter Rubber
Technology (RRT) in Malaysia. RRT is producing condoms
as well as machines to manufacture and test condoms (solely,
the first is assessed here). The annual production volume in
2015 has been 554 million condoms which is more than twice
as much as the annual amount of condoms sold in Germany
(BZgA 2015, p. 22). Only a small share is produced for
einhorn, but most condoms at RRT are produced with similar
ingredients and technology as provided here.
Only very limited literature data have been available sup-
posedly because the mixture of chemicals added to the con-
centrated latex is often a business secret. Hence, the data have
been derived from a questionnaire to RRT and consultation.
Gate-to-gate information on used ingredients, energy and wa-
ter consumption, and amount of waste and wastewater have
been gathered and compiled in Table 6. For business confi-
dentiality reasons, the ingredients had to be aggregated. We
hope to provide a more detailed and transparent analysis of the
ingredients in future studies. Capital goods, such as machinery
and production building, are not included in the dataset.
2.3.4 Corporate activities
After the transportation of condoms from Malaysia to
Germany, the condoms are stored at einhorn's office in
Berlin (Germany) before being retailed. The activities here
are dedicated to product development, sales, logistics, com-
munication, and fairstainability.
Although it is not consis-
tent with other phases of the life cycle, the scope of assessed
activities of this phase has been broadened towards office
activities (energy and water consumption) and transports,such
as commuting and business travels. Prior phases only include
production activities while the mentioned points have been
neglected. However, for einhorn, they do represent major is-
sues in order to decrease their environmental impact, which is
why they are included here. Note that all activities are directly
associated with the condom, because no other product existed
during the assessed timeframe. The information has been
gathered by consultation and a questionnaire.
Around 1.5 Mio condoms have been sold in one year (since
the start of online retailing in June 2015). For simplification, it
is assumed that there is no additional stock at the office. The
office is a co-working space, i.e., four to five different compa-
nies share the office area of 238 m
. einhorn holds a share of
27% of it (equals 64.26 m
different office activities as no information on economic activ-
ities of all companies was available. Furthermore, information
on municipal waste streams was not available too (Table 7).
2.3.5 Logistics
The raw material extraction is done at a natural rubber plan-
tation in the region of Kedah (Malaysia). The tapped field
latex is transported to the latex-processing site (to concentrate
the rubber content) and then send to condom manufacturing
where the condoms are produced, tested, and packed.
Afterwards, the condoms are mainly transported to Germany
by ship while a minor share has been transported by plane
during the assessed time period. Further road transport is done
by trucks. The condoms are stored at einhorn's office in
Germany and are sold via web shops and grocery stores.
After usage, the condoms and packaging materials enter the
end-of-life treatment. Table 8summarizes the phases, compa-
nies involved, the transport distance from the previous phase,
and details for goods transported. Note that for interpretation
the logistic stages of intercontinental transport (i.e., transport
from Malaysia to Germany) and retailing are outlined as sep-
arated life cycle stages because of their importance. However,
they are summarized here for a better overview.
Used retailing options are online retailing and traditional
retailers, such as supermarkets and grocery stores. LCA re-
sults of retailing systems are prone to high uncertainties based
on the chosen assumptions that need to be made for different
retailing channels (cp. van Loon et al. 2014). Hence, we rather
tried to set up a first indication of how important the retailing
phase is in the condoms life and then tried to understand it
completely. The model presented here is very limited and
needs to be detailed further in future work. Van Loon et al.
(2014) indicate which aspects could be integrated further.
Figure 2illustrates the retail model used, distances, addi-
tional packaging, and shares each retail channel holds. For
traditional retailing, only the distance to the average con-
sumer's location is used (380.7 km. based on a customer
Fairstainabilityis a neologism invented by einhorn highlighting the impor-
tance of social and environmental sustainability, [...] while - in contrast to
vernacular - sustainability[...] is often connected to environmental issues only.
Table 3 Physical and economic allocation factors at rubber plantation
Product Physical
(based on wet mass)
(prices given in Table 2)
Latex 0.16 0.57
Rubber wood 0.79 0.26
Field coagulum 0.03 0.15
Rubber seeds 0.01 0.02
Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979 969
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survey from einhorn). In addition, the traditional retail-
ing requires the customer to buy the condom in a store,
which is why a shopping trip is considered. According
to the Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital
Infrastructure (BMVI), a daily distance of 8.13 km per
person is covered in Germany for shopping purposes
with 83.1% of it done by motorized transport (car or
motorcycle) (BMVI 2015). Half the way is used here to
transport the condom back home. Conservatively, it is
considered that all customers take the car for the shop-
ping trip. For other online retailers, the average distance
has been calculated based on consultation with einhorn
(488.9 km), and the transport to the customer (380.7
km) is considered in addition. For purchasing via
einhorn's online shop, only the distance to the customer
is considered. The transport processes are based on the
vehicle fleet of Deutsche Post DHL (DHL 2015). After
consumption, a transport distance of municipal waste
Table 4 Latex processing, activity data, not allocated
Activity Unit Inventory data Original data
Input Fresh latex (35% DRC) tonne 2.17 Based on composition of fresh latex,
concentrated latex and skim block
rubber as given within (Webster and
Baulkwill 1989)
Water m
5.09 2.35 m
/tonne fresh latex input
(Chaiprapat et al. 2015;Jawjitetal.
Electricity kWh 93.44 43.13 kWh/tonne fresh latex input
(Chaiprapat et al. 2015;Jawjitetal.
DAP (for magnesium precipitation) kg 2.17 0.1% of fresh latex weight (Chaiprapat
et al. 2015; Jawjit et al. 2015)
Preservative system
Ammonia kg 4.33 LA-TZ preservative system: 0.2%
ammonia. 0.013% tetramethylthiuram
disulfide (TMTD). 0.013% zinc oxide
and 0.05% lauric acid (by weight of
fresh latex) (Webster and Baulkwill
1989; Sethuraj and Mathew 1992)
tmtd kg 0.28
ZnO kg 0.28
Lauric acid kg 1.08
By-product processing
Sulfuric acid (coagulant) kg 4.33 0.2% of fresh latex weight (Chaiprapat
et al. 2015; Jawjit et al. 2015)
LPG (for drying) MJ 156.66 1.64 kg LPG/tonne fresh latex input
(Chaiprapat et al. 2015). Conversion
factor of 0.02265 kg/MJ as given by the
employed Ecoinvent dataset heat pro-
duction. propane. at industrial furnace >
100 kW.
Output Products & waste
Concentrated latex (39% wet mass) tonne 1.00 Calculated based on composition of fresh
latex. concentrated latex and skim block
rubber as given within (Webster and
Baulkwill 1989). price (20142016 av-
erage): 4.24 MYR/kg (MRB 2016)
Skim block rubber (0% wet mass) tonne 0.06 Calculated based on composition of fresh
latex. concentrated latex and skim block
rubber as given within (Webster and
Baulkwill 1989). Price (20142016 av-
erage): 5.29 MYR/kg (MRB 2016)
Wastewater m
6.20 Sum of water input difference of water in
fresh and concentrated latex,rubber, and
solids lost during the process (rainwater
and evaporation are excluded)
Unspecified mass tonne 0.01 Mass balance for chemicals not analyzed
(i.e., fate unclear)
970 Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979
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collection of 5 km is considered, based on the dataset
for Switzerland in Ecoinvent (Doka 2007).
Connected to different retailing options are additional
tertiary packaging that are added to the condom if con-
doms are send directly to the customer (i.e., for all
online purchases). The newly added packaging is mainly
used by einhorn and contains up to seven bags of con-
doms. It is a folding boxboard with the mass of
133.04 g (i.e., 2.7 g per condom). For simplification,
it is assumed that other online retailers are using the
same packaging. As the new packaging is added, the
former one is discarded for online retailing. For trans-
port to traditional retailing, the former tertiary packaging
is reused, but finally also discarded in groceries and
2.3.6 End-of-life
After usage, the condoms and the packaging materials enter
the end-of-life phase. As only German consumption is ana-
lyzed, this accounts for end-of-life actions too. Used condoms and
discarded packaging material are the relevant waste streams under
Important choices regarding end-of-life options are made by the
consumer. An online customer survey provided insights of where
and how condoms are discarded. Over 87% of einhornscustomer
statethattheydiscardusedcondoms into residual waste bins,
followed by flushing down the toilet, using the yellow or organic.
In addition, the surveys showed that close to 50% of consumers use
toilet paper to discard the condom while the other half only knots
the condom and discards it (einhorn 2016). The assessment in the
study at hand is based on a simplified disposal route of condoms:
Only the residual waste stream is assessed because it holds the
highest share among the options. In addition, waste management
companies, such as Berliner Stadtreinigung (BSR), advise to discard
condoms into residual waste bins leading to incineration of the
condom (BSR 2016). To reflect the discarding behavior, the impact
of additionally used toilet tissue paper has been allocated to half of
the condoms, as well. It has been assumed that three papers of three-
ply toilet paper with a basic weight of 20 g/m
Table 5 Physical and economic allocation factors at latex concentration
Product Physical
(based on
wet mass)
(prices given
in Table 4)
Concentrated latex 0.95 0.94
Skim block rubber. at gate
(MY) (5.56E2t)
0.05 0.06
Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979 971
Table 6 Condom production,
activity data Activity Unit Inventory data
Original data
Input Tap water ml 39.71
Electricity Wh 6.81
Concentrated latex g 2.88
Ingredients g 1.42 Aggregated because of business secret
Lubricant (silicone
Primary packaging g 0.89 0.89 g/condom + rejection rate,
composition: 44 wt% paper / 39 wt%
polyethylene / 17 wt% aluminum
g 0.41 2.84 g/bag (containing 7 condoms) +
rejection rate,
composition: 68 wt% paper / 32 wt%
Transport packaging g 0.85 1.9 kg/box (containing 2240 condoms),
Output Product & waste
Condom. packed g 3.87
Prim. packaging
g 0.004 0.5% rejection
Sec. packaging
g 0.008 2% rejection rate (primary data
Condom waste
g 0.022 12 tonnes per year, i.e., < 1% of DRC
Wastewater ml 128.68
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
12 cm are used (Tillmann 2012). The toilet paper enters the residual
waste stream and is incinerated with the used condom.
Analyzing the relevant German waste streams for the used
packaging material shows that the majority of aluminum, plas-
tic, and paper packaging not collected separately end up in
energy-recovery plants (waste incineration or substitute fuels)
(UBA 2015). Datasets for incineration have been available in
Ecoinvent for polyethylene and paper but not for aluminum
where only a general municipal solid waste incineration in
Germany is used instead. Tertiary packaging is made from
boxboard, which is collected separately in Germany.
Between 2008 and 2013, over 88% (and here mainly separate-
ly collected) waste paper and board has been recycled leading
to waste paper usage in new paper production of over 70%
(UBA 2015).
3 Results
This section shows the results of the conducted life
cycle assessment. Trying to identify phases and activi-
ties that do contribute most to the environmental impact,
first a short overview of contributions by each life cycle
stage to the overall results is provided. Subsequently,
the activitiescontributions within each stage are
Table 7 Corporative activities, allocated
Activity Unit Inventory data (unit/year) Original data
Input Tap water liter 150.00 Water bill from 2013
Electricity kWh 1056.24 Energy bill from 2014/15; green energy
mix (not included here)
Heating (light fuel oil) kWh 9767.52 Average consumption in Berlin: 152
(Heizspiegel 2014)
Public transport km 21,840.00 Average distance 7 km (one way), 6
employees, 260 work days
Bycicle km 3640.00 See previous texts, 1 employee
Business travel
Plain km 37,870.00
Train km 8370.00
Car km 856.00
Output Condoms ready for retail unit 1,500,000.00
Wastewater liter 323.150
972 Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979
Table 8 Foreground phases, companies, and transportation distances
Phase Company Location Transport distance from previous phase
(km) Transported good
Rubber plantation Kai Sik Plantation Malaysia, Kedah ––
Latex processing Lee Latex 7.8 6.28 (fresh latex)
Condom production Richter Rubber 34.5 3.67 (concentrated latex)
Planning & storage einhorn Germany, Berlin 63.0 (truck to airport)
+ 10,700 (plane to Berlin)
+ 14.2 (truck to office)
1.73 (condom)
0.89 (primary)
0.41 (secondary)
0.85 (tertiary 1)45.5 (truck to harbor)
+ 16,500 (shipping to Hamburg)
+ 294.0 (truck to Berlin)
Retail diverse Germany Retailing/Einhorn webshop: 380.7
shopping trip 4 km (by car)
1.7 (condom)
0.89 (primary)
0.41 (secondary)
0.85 (tertiary 1: 69.9%)
2.72 (tertiary 2: 30.1%)
E-tailing: 488.9 + 380.7
End-of-life Germany (diverse) 5 km (waste collection)
Based on
Average distance from Berlin to state capital weighted according to share of online customers per state (einhorn 2016)
Primary, primary packaging; secondary, secondary packaging; tertiary 1, transport packaging from Malaysia to Germany; tertiary 2, transport packaging
to customer
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979 973
outlined. Afterwards, the sensitivity analysis and hotspot
assessment are presented.
3.1 Contribution of life cycle stages
The contribution of the life cycle stages to the environmental
impact of condom is displayed in Fig. 3. It can be concluded that
the system's impact is mainly driven by the production of the
condom and the downstream phases while rubber plantation and
processing only play a minor role, except for terrestrial ecotoxicity.
The contribution of the natural rubber plantation towards the
environmental impact categories stays under 1% except for terres-
trial ecotoxicity, where it is responsible for more than 50% of the
emissions. The contribution of the latex processing stage is also
rather small compared to other downstream phases (range between
0.6% and 2.75%). As Fig. 3indicates, the manufacturing of con-
doms is the biggest source of emissions in the condoms life.
Between 36.9 and 52.5% of the emitted emissions within the se-
lected impact categories (except terrestrial ecotoxicity) stemmed
from the manufacturing process and its upstream activities (excl.
supply of latex). Terrestrial ecotoxicity is the only impact category
that the condom production does not dominate (22.1%). Further, the
road transporting the packed condom from the production site in
Malaysia to einhorn's office in Germany does contribute to the
environmental impact within a range of about 1.4 to 19.3%, with
highest contributions to climate change (7.1%), terrestrial acidifica-
tion (15.2%), and photochemical oxidation (19.3%). The stage of
planning and storage contributes between 6.2 and 22.6% to the
selected impact categories. Except for terrestrial acidification, it is
responsible for more than 10% of the environmental impacts. The
share of retailing on the condoms footprint ranges from about 7.2 to
1.50%; hence, it is relatively constant. The impact of the end-of-life
stage is rather high ranging between 10.1 and 39.2%. Based on
these numbers, it can already be concluded that the condomsen-
vironmental impact (based on the assessed impact categories) is
dominated by condom production and downstream phases. The
only exemption is terrestrial ecotoxicity where the rubber plantation
is contributing most emissions. The next section will detail which
activities are the strongest contributors to each phases impact.
3.2 Activity contribution
3.2.1 Natural rubber plantation
The strongest contributors to the plantation's impacts are nitrogen
and phosphor fertilizer, plant protection, and the felling of trees.
Direct impacts are included for application of phosphor (P) and
nitrogen (N) fertilizer, herbicides, and insecticides. Furthermore,
the felling of trees (power sawing) and subsequent incineration of
biomass residues do directly emit substances at the site. Carbon
bound in fresh latex has also been included in the datasetthe
uptake exceeds the emitted mass of CO
equivalents due to other
activities by a factor of 2.19 which is why the impact for climate
change is negative. However, please see Section 4for discussion
on the impact of the plantation.
As outlined previously, the plantation is contributing most to
terrestrial ecotoxicity. Here, 98.7% is direct emission
from applica-
tion of insecticides. The rest is due to direct emission of glyphosate
(herbicides) application and indirect emissions from supply chain
(here, mainly the fuel used for felling of trees). Looking at Fig. 3,it
becomes clear that the integration of the ecotoxicity indicator was
important to not underestimate the role of the plantation in the
supply chain. Fertilizer's production and application are responsible
for major emissions towards eutrophication (68%), acidification
(90%), and human toxicity (64.8%), while holding a share of emis-
sions between 24 and 45% for the other indicators. Especially the
direct emissions from phosphor application are responsible for more
than half of the emitted substances towards eutrophication (51.9%)
while direct emissions from nitrogen application are responsible for
acidification emissions (69.9%).
In terms of activities related to felling of trees and incineration of
residues, the relative influence on photochemical oxidation and
climate change is high: 52.3% direct emissions plus 5.9% upstream
emissions from power sawing and 51.9% direct emissions from
biomass incineration, respectively. Otherwise, both do not contrib-
ute much to other categories.
Among other agrochemicals, especially herbicides do
show a high impact (on average, 18.9% over all indicators).
3.2.2 Latex concentration
The highest contributor to emissions is consumed electricity
mainly used for centrifugation of fresh latex. It holds a share
within the range of about 57 to 69% within all categories
except ecotoxicity. Here, the supply of fatty acids is responsi-
ble for 88% of the emissions.
Chemicals are employed for the regulation of magnesium
content (DAP) preservation (LA type: ammonia, TMTD,
lauric acid, and zinc oxide) and to support the coagulation of
skim latex by neutralization (sulfuric acid). DAP upstream
emissions always are higher than 4% and increase to close
to 10% for acidification and human toxicity (average among
all is 7.3%). For the preservative system, TMTD and ammonia
hold the highest shares of relative impact. TMTD, though only
applied on 0.013% per weight of wet latex, contributes with an
average value of 4.3% and especially to acidification (7.8%)
and human toxicity (9.9%). Ammonia is applied with 0.2% of
wet latex weight but contributes only slightly more (average
of 5.3%). The other chemicals do show a minor contribution.
The environmental impact of latex concentration does not
include direct emissions from activities in latex processing
despite of heat production.
Direct emissions are understood here as those that stem from the application
of chemicals, while indirect emissions stem from the supply chain.
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3.2.3 Condom production
Figure 4gives an overview of the contribution of condom
production activities for climate change, water depletion
(qualitatively likewise for other categories), and ecotoxicity.
On top, basic activities, such as wastewater, water consump-
tion, electricity, and transport from latex concentration, are
given. Here, especially the influence of electricity consump-
tion needs to be highlighted as it shows a contribution between
10 and 37% of the complete production process. The electric-
ity is reflecting the Malaysian grid mix with high consumption
of hard coal and natural gas (Weidema et al. 2013). It has not
been allocated to different production activities here due to
missing information. The other basic activities do not show
high contributions.
As the inventory data are for the packed condom, the pack-
aging material is also assessed in Fig. 4. It can be concluded
that the impact of the materials is high. Despite of ecotoxicity
(15%), the contributions are really high ranging from at least
about 38% (eutrophication) to a maximum of 59% (water
depletion). The chart furthermore highlights that the upstream
activities of the primary packaging incorporate the highest
share of emissions compared to other packaging which is
driven by the used aluminum. For example, for climate
change, aluminum in primary packaging holds 57% of the
emitted CO
equivalents while about 23% is due to produced
paper and 20% based on thin film polyethylene.
The last point is ingredients (except rubber) used to pro-
duce condoms. Together, 15 different substances make up for
around 10 to 56% (ecotoxicity) of the impact depending on
the category. Unfortunately, current information on the ingre-
dients cannot be disclosed because of business secret.
Interesting about the results is that the mass of con-
centrated latex in the condom production exceeds well
Fig. 3. Contribution to environmental impacts (absolute emissions are added on top of the bars)
Fig. 2. Simplified retailing channels
974 Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979
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one third of the wet mass material input (including all
ingredients and packaging materials for the product).
However, the impact remains low next to the consump-
tion of energy and the primary packaging material, where
especially aluminum shows high environmental burden.
Section 3.4 especially highlights the overall impact of
energy consumption and primary packaging used during
condom production. Probably another way of sorting the
materials could have changed the outcome. For instance,
if all materials and ingredients (including their upstream
supply chains) would have been aggregated in a process,
this would have resulted in higher importance of up-
stream activities on the general level. However, from
our perspective, this is counter-intuitive because the main
ingredient is natural rubber and remaining materials are
3.2.4 Intercontinental transport
Regarding those impact categories selected, the transpor-
tation has its main impacts on photochemical oxidation,
terrestrial acidification, and climate change (in descending
order) at 19, 15, and 7%, respectively. Although only
3.1% of the condoms have been transported by plane in
the considered timeframe, they still hold an important
share of emissions. Especially, they make up for over
60% of the climate change emissions.
3.2.5 Corporate activities
The impact of corporate activities is mainly driven by trans-
port processes and electricity demand. Business travels are
responsible for major contributions to climate change
(68.8%), terrestrial acidification (79.2%), and photochemical
oxidation (86.1%) within the life cycle stage. Passenger trans-
port by car, high-speed train (ICE), and plane are considered
for business travels. The electricity demand of office activities
is responsible for about 13% of emissions (on average, rang-
ing from 2.8 to 23.2%). The German electricity mix has been
used, although einhorn is purchasing a green electricity mix
that is only made from renewable energies.
3.2.6 Retailing
While the impact of sale via online shops is mainly driven by
the use of new tertiary packaging material, the traditional re-
tailing in supermarkets is mainly driven by the transportation
of the condom. A real comparison between the different re-
tailing channels is difficult because the model is based on
many uncertainties and assumptions (as outlined previously).
3.2.7 End-of-life
End-of-life treatment also includes the usage of toilet paper
to discard the condom (for 50% of consumers). Remaining
customers only knot the condom and throw it away. Figure 5
1.36E+01 4.28E+01 1.84E-06
Climate Change [g
Water Depleon
Ecotoxcicity [kg 1,4-
DB eq]
transport from concentr.
transport packaging
secondary packaging
primary packaging
Fig. 4 LCIA results, condom production (results for other indicators are qualitatively similar to water depletion)
toilet paper
EOL 10%
toilet paper EoL
waste condom EoL
primary packaging EoL
secondary packaging EoL
terary packaging EoL
Fig. 5. Relative results of
terrestrial acidification (EOL,
Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979 975
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976 Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979
displays the environmental contributions for acidification
for end-of-life treatment and the production of toilet paper
used. It becomes clear that the toilet paper production is
dominating the impact of the phase. This is qualitatively
the same for the other impact categories, except for climate
change where end-of-life treatment is dominating while the
toilet paper production is responsible for only 15% of the
greenhouse gas emissions.
In general, we can record a high influence of the toilet
paper production and treatment. Focusing on the end-of-life
activities only, the major contributor is the condom's inciner-
ation (contributing between 33 and 72%).
3.3 Sensitivity analysis
A sensitivity analysis has been conducted to test assumptions
and informed guesses made during inventory development. A
Recipe single score (hierarchist) has been employed to ease the
sensitivity analysis because of the high amount of data to test.
Tested parameters are the following: latex yield, amount of seeds
and timber actually used, water use for agrochemicals, applied
stimulation, applied preservation, distance to customer for
reselling online, and amount of used toilet paper for discarding
the condom. Among these, a relatively high change of impact
was observed for latex yield and used toilet paper (Fig. 6).
The latex yield varies based on different variables, such as
tapping systems, type of rubber tree (clone), or experience of
tappers, and weather conditions (MRB 2009). The product
system has been tested towards its behavior when changing
the yield from current output of 613.5 kg (dry rubber content)
per hectare and year to the optimum output of the tree that is
planted at the plantation. The environmental impact increases
for the lower yield (3.2%) and decreases for the higher yield (
1.8%). The deviation is rather high keeping in mind that the
plantation share of impacts is small. Hence, the dry rubber
content of the fresh latex can be important when analyzing
the impact of rubber products.
The strongest deviations for environmental assessment are
received for the assumed consumption of toilet paper for
discarding the condom after usage. A total of 50% of einhorn's
customers use toilet paper to discard the condom. However, it
was unknown how much they use. Therefore, the originally
assumed value of three has been compared to six pieces of
toilet paper and no use at all. As the impact of the toilet paper
is generally high, this reflects in the impact assessed during
sensitivity analysis (± 10.4%).
Other parameters only show minor deviations to the overall
system's impact when tested. However, it should be noted that
no interrelation of the parameters is established in the inven-
tory model (i.e., static model). For example, a change in the
application rate of stimulation methods should lead to a dif-
ferent yield which has not been realized in the model. This can
be marked as research question.
3.4 Hotspot assessment
The identification of hotspot life cycle stages is based on the
methodology as described in Section 2.2. It is based on equal
weighting of all impact categories, resulting in a single score
average contribution. The approach has been favored instead of
the Recipe methodology (compare sensitivity analysis) because it
was more transparent and easy to understand for decision makers
in the company environment of einhorn. A color scheme has
been applied to categorize life cycle stages to highest (contribu-
tion 2040%), high (contribution 1020%), medium (contribu-
tion 510%), and minor (contribution less than 5%) impacts.
Figure 7shows the outcome of the assessment. Activities that
contribute most to the emissions of each stage are added, as well.
Subsequently, the impact of the highest hotspots is described
more in detail. To avoid repetitive information, please refer to
Section 3.2 for details on the other life cycle stages.
The figure highlights the importance of condom production
stage and downstream phases that together are responsible for
more than 91.3% of the average contribution. The average con-
tribution of the highest hotspots equals 62% of the condoms life.
Condom production contributes with 41.7%, thus is dom-
inating the condoms impact. Here, energy consumption and
primary packaging are the major contributors (making up
more than 60%). Looking on the condoms whole life, prima-
ry packaging materials and energy consumption at condom
production do contribute close to one third to the environmen-
tal impact of the condoms life (28%). Further important ac-
tivities at condom production are additional packaging and
some ingredients.
The end-of-life stage is the second highest contributor to
environmental impacts (on average 20.7%). However, most of
-15 -10 -5 0 5 10 15
Change of environmental impact (Recipe) [%]
6 pieces of toilet paper
without toilet paper
high latex yield (1238,8 kg/ha*year)
low latex yield (466,26 kg/ha*year)
Fig. 6. Major changes in
sensitivity analysis
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
Fig. 7. Environmental hotspots (equal weighing of impact categories)
Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979 977
its emissions are due to the production of used toilet paper
when discarding the condoms (on average, 74%). The incin-
eration of the condom is the second highest contributor (12%)
when it comes to end-of-life activities.
The top five activities are tissue paper production (15%),
primary packaging material (14%), energy consumption at
condom production (13%), business travel (7%), and interna-
tional transport of condoms (7%).
4 Conclusions and outlook
This paper presented the first life cycle assessment of a con-
dom. The goal was to provide an overview of environmental
hotspots along the life cycle and to identify data gaps (an
overview of included data and data gaps is provided in the
Electronic Supplementary Material). Therefore, inventory da-
ta for the assessment were obtained in intensive literature re-
search and consultation with stakeholder in the supply chain.
Regularly updated inventory data can be found on www.
Despite of ecotoxicity, it can be concluded that the major
environmental impacts assessed for the given impact categories
can be found in the condom production and downstream
phases (on average, 91.3%). Alternative options for the hotspot
phases and activities can be a starting point for decreasing the
environmental impact in the condoms life. For example, the
impact of electricity consumption during condom production
might be changed using renewable energy sources (e.g., a solar
system has been installed at condom production site after this
study was conducted). It can be analyzed if substitutes or alter-
native production pathways are available for used ingredients,
such as lubricants. Furthermore, the choice of packaging mate-
rial used can help to reduce burdens during production, trans-
portation, and end-of-life. For example, applying mono-
materials where possible could increase recyclability of the
materials used. Furthermore, trying to avoid aluminumas
currently recommended in ISO/DIS 16038:2016 (a drafted site
document to ISO 4074 on condoms) and used for many
condomsand finding alternative materials with appropriate
barrier for primary packaging could be an interesting way of
substantially decreasing the condoms burdens on environ-
ment. Understanding the fate of chemicals applied during con-
dom production and the contribution of capital goods, such as
machinery, are data gaps to be addressed. The intercontinental
transport of condoms is strongly influenced by air transport
(although only about 3% of condoms were transported by plane
in the analyzed timeframe). We conclude that a company policy
of further avoiding air transport can result in lower emissions.
The same recommendation can be suggested for companies
that produce condoms elsewhere but need to transport concen-
trated latex from South East Asia to production facilities.
In terms of einhorn's business activities, it can be recom-
mended to check options towards energy consumption and
less business travel to Malaysia. However, building good
relationship to supply chain stakeholder will be
contradictory to reducing business travels to the region. In
terms of data gaps, especially produced waste and more
recent data need to be included in future assessments to
give a more comprehensive picture. Looking at retail, a
medium contribution to the environmental impact has been
observed. However, a review of van Loon et al. (2014,p.
291) showed that the environmental impact of online and
traditional retailing is prone to high uncertainties based on
assumptions made. This highlights the urgent need to im-
prove the model used here in order to show the complete
picture. In terms of end-of-life, a customer survey by
einhorn suggested that the majority uses residual waste bins,
but also not recommended options like organic waste or
toilet are used to discard condoms. This issue can probably
be met by a clear and transparent communication strategy.
The same accounts for additional toilet paper used by half of
the customers to wrap and discard condoms. It was found to
be one of the major sources of emissions in the life of
condoms. Around 50% of consumers simply knot the con-
doms without using toilet paper to discard them. Hence,
increasing the share of customers doing so would be a
way to decrease the environmental burden. However, further
research on how much toilet paper people really use would
be of importance.
In comparison to the only existing earlier study (cp. Dresen
et al. 1993), we found that condom production and its
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978 Int J Life Cycle Assess (2020) 25:964979
downstream phases are responsible for a very high share of
environmental impacts. We assume that they were not able to
put the activities in the different life cycle phases into relation-
ship with each other because they did not use a quantitative
life cycle approach but rather a descriptive one. We found that
the impact of natural rubber plantation was rather low for most
of the analyzed impact categories except for ecotoxicity.
However, this is only partly in contrast of what has been sug-
gested by Dresen et al. (1993): [the] most important environ-
mental problems [within the life cycle of condoms] occur
during the stage of primary production: the cutting down of
tropical forests; the use of herbicides and the emissions that
occur when raw latex is being processed.It needs to be
highlighted that no indicator for biodiversity or land use
change is included in the study at hand. Furthermore, no
rainforest has been cut down for the studied plantation in the
last 20 years and the rubber sector in Malaysia is decreasing,
which is why deforestation and related impact on climate
change have not been assessed here. The picture may change
if we analyze plantations in countries where the rubber sector
is currently growing strongly as is the case in Cambodia
(Rubber Asia 2017). The results presented here can only be
understood in the given system boundary and the plantations
impact might be small compared to other locations. The high
influence on terrestrial ecotoxicity underlines the findings of
Dresen et al. (1993) and other more recent publications
(Haustermann and Knoke 2018) on environmental problems
of rubber plantation. This highlights the importance of the
integration of the ecotoxicity indicator to not underestimate
the rubber plantationsrole in the supply chain. Integrating
further indicator on ecotoxicity, biodiversity, and land use
change as well as the impact on climate change for newly
developed plantations on former rainforest area will most like-
ly show a higher impact of the rubber plantations. This may
change the picture provided here. We can conclude that the
role of rubber plantation towards the ecosystem needs to be
addressed in more detail in future life cycle studies to draw a
more general picture.
Although it was not the aim of this study to provide policy
recommendations, some points can be concluded for the pol-
icy level. Even if the picture of rubber plantation in the con-
dom supply chain is not completely clear, it can be highlighted
that incentives to stop deforestation of rainforest for planta-
tions and moving towards sustainable rubber cultivation with-
out monoculture plantation with a high need for agrochemi-
cals should be addressed (cp. Haustermann and Knoke 2018).
The case of condom production shows again that the amount
of energy needed for production is an important driver for
environmental burdens. The shift towards renewable en-
ergy sources can minimize the resulting negative impacts.
The global waste problems further demands for sustain-
able packaging solutions. The condoms individual pack-
aging is neither recyclable because of the material mix
used nor resource efficient using aluminum foil.
Incentives to push companies using less material and
mono materials are needed. In addition, including well-
defined barrier thresholds into the international standard
for condoms (ISO 4074 2015) could help companies to
move away from aluminum and finding a more sustain-
able material that also fits the barrier needs of the product.
Quite general, it can be stated that the results are prone to
uncertainties related to data limitations as listed in the
Electronic Supplementary Material. Decreasing these uncer-
tainties should be addressed in future research. It can also be
concluded that testing the results with further indicators (i.e.,
those recommended by Life Cycle Initiative) would be advis-
able for future research on this issue. However, to our knowl-
edge, no other recent study exists that analyzes the environ-
mental impact of the life cycle of a condom. Thus, it is the
intention of the authors to initiate a discussion and future
research on sustainability of condoms and to invite interested
stakeholder to participate.
Acknowledgments The authors want to thank Dr. Andreas Ciroth,
Franziska Eisfeldt, and Cristina Rodríguez (GreenDelta GmbH) for sci-
entific collaboration.
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... Latex producers and suppliers are aiming for carbon neutral, often with successful outcome. Concerning goods produced from latex, studies on the carbon footprint are conducted, focusing on carbon dioxide emission during processing and manufacturing, following Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Green Houses Gases Protocol (GHG Protocol) [52][53][54]. ...
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The chapter contains information about the origin of natural rubber latex (NRL) (Hevea brasiliensis) and the processing of field latex, considering quality changes occurring during the preparation of raw materials for distribution. The main types of concentrated natural rubber latex are described. A specification of natural rubber latex (NRL) in terms of key parameters tested by manufacturers and customers is presented. Test methods for verifying if the material meets the requirements of ISO 2004 and internal specifications are described based on standards and commonly used techniques. The next subject touched in the chapter is prevulcanization as the processing of concentrated latex with a change of its properties. One of the main industrial applications of NRL as prevulcanized latex (PV) is the production of dipped goods like gloves or balloons. Currently, some trends and challenges relate to sustainability issues are presented (carbon footprint, FSC).
... Ein Großteil der untersuchten Produkte enthielt bedenkliche Substanzmischungen, die sich erstens nicht vollständig identifizieren ließen und zweitens negative Effekte in Zelltests zeigten (Zimmermann et al. 2019). (Birnbach et al. 2020). Wie sieht es in diesem Zusammenhang mit Lebensmittelverpackungen aus? Warum können beispielsweise manche Teesorten in einer Papp-Box verkauft werden, während es für andere Hersteller notwendig erscheint, eine Aluminiumbarriere in ihrer Verpackung zu verarbeiten? ...
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Meeresmüll und Mikroplastik sind allgegenwärtig und in aller Munde, gleichzeitig bleibt Verpackung in vielfacher Hinsicht unsichtbar und schweigsam. Ein nachhaltiger Umgang mit Verpackung muss diese in ihren Inhaltsstoffen und Umweltauswirkungen durchschaubar und damit diskutierbar machen. Online PDF:
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The rapidly growing car industry in China has led to an equally rapid expansion of monocul-ture rubber in many regions of South East Asia. Xishuangbanna, the second largest rubber planting area in China, located in the Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspot, supplies about 37% of the domestic natural rubber production. There, high income possibilities from rubber drive a dramatic expansion of monoculture plantations which poses a threat to natural forests. For the first time we mapped rubber plantations in and outside protected areas and their net present value for the years 1988, 2002 (Landsat, 30 m resolution) and 2010 (Rapi-dEye, 5 m resolution). The purpose of our study was to better understand the pattern and dynamics of the expansion of rubber plantations in Xishuangbanna, as well as its economic prospects and conservation impacts. We found that 1) the area of rubber plantations was 4.5% of the total area of Xishuangbanna in 1988, 9.9% in 2002, and 22.2% in 2010; 2) rubber monoculture expanded to higher elevations and onto steeper slopes between 1988 and 2010; 3) the proportion of rubber plantations with medium economic potential dropped from 57% between 1988 and 2002 to 47% in 2010, while the proportion of plantations with lower economic potential had increased from 30% to 40%; and 4) nearly 10% of the total area of nature reserves within Xishuangbanna has been converted to rubber monoculture by 2010. On the basis of our findings, we conclude that the rapid expansion of rubber plantations into higher elevations, steeper terrain, and into nature reserves (where most of the remaining forests of Xishuangbanna are located) poses a serious threat to biodiversity and environmental services while not producing the expected economic returns. Therefore, it is essential that local governments develop long-term land use strategies for balancing economic benefits with environmental sustainability, as well as for assisting farmers with the selection of land suitable for rubber production.
The article contains sections titled:
La profesion –formacion- docente es un tema crucial en los actuales debates educativos. La existencia de dos decretos y el desplazamiento del verdadero sentido del ser maestro reclaman de los analisis un ejercicio de comprension del orden discursivo oficial. La calidad es el sustrato de la sociedad de control. En este marco se agencia nuevas practicas de subjetivacion del maestro los cuales podriamos situar en la calidad, flexibilidad, adaptabilidad, eficiencia, eficacia. En cualquier caso, el esfuerzo por hacer del maestro un intelectual de la educacion fue borrado. La gran cuestion consiste en saber que discursos regula el saber del docente a la luz de la sociedad de control.
Though many methods of prevention of STI/HIV are available, condoms remain of utmost importance. They have gone a long way from the oiled silk paper used by the Chinese and the hard sheaths made of tortoise- shell used by the Japanese to the latex condoms of today. The breakthrough came when the rubber vulcanization process was invented by Charles Goodyear and eventually the first rubber condom was made. The condom offers maximum protection( more than 90%) against HIV, Hepatitis B virus and N.Gonorrhoea. They also offer protection in scenarios when alternate sexual practices are adapted. The female condom in the only female driven contraceptive method available today. Graphene and Nano lubricated condoms are new in the market and others in futuristic approach may include wearable technology/Technology driven condom and invisible Condoms. Both Correct and Consistent use of condoms needs to be promoted for HIV/STI prevention.
This paper examines the carbon impact of online retailing and compares it with that of conventional retailing. It discusses the effect of varying the scope of the calculation, the system boundaries and the underlying assumptions. While most of the carbon emissions come from the last-mile delivery, this is also the activity whose carbon intensity is most sensitive to assumptions made about consumer behavior. On the basis of an extensive literature review, the paper also explores the carbon impacts of the upstream supply chain, energy use in information and communication technology and several aspects of travel behavior. This should help researchers to make wider and more realistic assessments of the environmental impact of online retailing. On the basis of these assessments, one can test the conditions under which online shopping is likely to have a lower carbon footprint.
Thailand is currently the world's largest natural rubber producer. To maintain a leadership position of natural rubber producer, it has been challenging for Thai rubber entrepreneurs to seek appropriate measures towards producing environmentally friendly rubber products. The objective of this study is to assess the potential environmental impact of concentrated latex production by partial Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and to investigate the effects of the options to reduce the impact. The methodology is based on the ISO 14040 series, taking a “Gate-to-Gate” approach (Partial LCA). The activities taken into account include production of chemicals, production of diesel and electricity, diesel combustion, and wastewater treatment. The functional unit is 1 ton of concentrated latex, and the environmental impacts considered in this study include global warming, acidification, eutrophication, human toxicity, photochemical oxidation, and the total environmental impact. The results indicate that electricity use for centrifugation has the largest share, compared with other activities, in global warming (50%), acidification (58%), and photochemical oxidation (55%). Ammonia use for latex preservation accounts for 37% of human toxicity, whereas use of DAP (Diammonium phosphate) accounts for 46% of eutrophication. Based on these results, the following reduction options are therefore identified: 1) electricity efficiency improvement (by installation of inverters to centrifugal machines); 2) improvement of ammonia preparation and storage (by chilling systems); 3) minimizing the use of DAP (by extending coagulation time); and 4) substitution of diesel by LPG. These four options were technically and practically feasible for concentrated latex production, and result in reductions of the total environmental impact by 12%, 8%, 3%, and 5%, respectively.
Sulfuric acid is heavily used in concentrated rubber latex factories to coagulate rubber particles in skim latex. The resulting sulfate-rich wastewater creates the onset of toxic H2S gas production in the wastewater holding ponds, causing severe corrosion to materials and community disturbance when dispersed to ambient air. This work identified and evaluated measures to reduce H2S production by minimizing sulfate concentration in the wastewater. Sulfuric acid use could be cut down by pre-removal of ammonia in the skim latex as well as a stricter manipulation of acid dosing. In search of a more benign chemical, a heat sensitive polymer was identified and tested as sulfuric acid substitute. The use of hydroxypropyl methylcellulose polymer (HPMC) changed wastewater characteristics and was found to increase biogas production approximately by 2.4 times in batch assay at the initial pH 7.0 and methane yield by 2.7 times in continuous digester operation at HRT 7 days. Finally, a resource recovery option was evaluated. The remaining H2S in the produced biogas was oxidized in the biotrickling filter to sulfuric acid that has a potential to partially supplement the fresh acid. This work demonstrated an integrated approach in waste management to improve environmental performance, safety and energy recovery in the concentrated latex industry.
Purpose The emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) is a key criterion in the environmental assessment of biofuels. Life cycle inventories taking into account the latest methodological developments are an essential prerequisite for this assessment. In the last years, substantial progresses in the modelling of nitrogen emissions relevant for the climate as well as in modelling the emissions from land use change (LUC) have been achieved. Therefore, the biomass production inventories in the ecoinvent database were revised to take into account these developments. Methods The IPCC method tier 1 has been used for the assessment of N2O emissions. Induced emissions from NH3 and NO3 were included as well. Due to the importance of the latter emissions for N2O formation, these emissions have also been updated and harmonised. The Agrammon model was used for the NH3 emissions. The SALCA-NO3 model has been applied in the European inventories to estimate nitrate leaching, whilst in non-European inventories the SQCB-NO3 model has been used. The quantification of the land use change areas has been based on annualized, retrospective data of the last 20 years. All carbon pools (from aboveground biomass to soil organic carbon) were considered and differentiated on a regional level for all of the natural vegetation categories affected. Whenever possible, default values and methods from the IPCC 2006 were applied. Results and discussion The changes for ammonia emissions were generally very small (−5 % on average). The nitrate emissions increased on average by +13 %, but this slight trend is the result of important downward and upward changes, whilst the average N2O emissions decreased by −26 %. For the existing inventories of soybean, palm oil and sugarcane production, significant increases of GHG emissions resulted from LUC modelling. This was mainly due to the consistent inclusion of all carbon stocks according to the IPCC guidelines. The calculation method can also result in important C sequestration effects in certain cases like African Jatropha production. Conclusions The changes in greenhouse gas emissions due to the updated methodology were significant. This shows that life cycle assessment studies for biofuels using older methodological bases need to be revised and could lead to different conclusions. The implemented and cultivated superstructure for LUC modelling is modular and flexible and can be easily extended to other important crop activities. The new parameterisation functionality applied for the activities provides powerful means for the simple generation of site-specific activities.