Circular Footprint Formula (CFF)

Remember the allocation topic from the Goal and Scope Definition?

As mentioned before, there are many methods to tackle the allocation situation.

The EU Parliament has established Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) regulations to provide a standardized approach for product environmental assessment.

Within the PEF framework, a specific method known as the Circular Footprint Formula (CFF) has been introduced. The CFF is designed to calculate the environmental footprint of recycled materials.

Let us walk you through this approach with an example:

When a plastic bottle undergoes recycling to produce a t-shirt using the recycled material, the emissions generated during the collection, cleaning, and processing stages (such as shredding and pelletizing to form new plastic granulate) are typically attributed to the End-of-Life phase of the plastic bottle.

But we can also argue that, since this recycled material serves as the raw material for the t-shirt, then the emissions of the recycling should be included in the material production for the new product.

As a result, the emissions associated with recycling may appear to be counted twice.

This underscores the necessity for proper allocation methods to distribute emissions between the two product systems accurately.

Similarly, the benefits derived from avoiding the use of virgin materials in t-shirt production should not solely be credited to the t-shirt itself; a portion of these credits is also allocated to the original product. This approach ensures that the preceding product receives recognition for its contribution to recycling efforts.

The CFF offers a specific allocation rule for recycling processes. Based on this rule, the burdens and credits are split between the virgin and recycled material based on specific allocation factors.

The CFF formula is divided into three parts:

  • Material: the emissions from the material input and material recycling are calculated. In the next step, the credit for the avoided material is also considered.

  • Energy: the emissions due to the energy recovery process are calculated. As the next step, the credit for the avoided primary energy source is taken into account.

  • Disposal: The emissions of the remaining waste and disposal are taken into account.

CFF in cradle-to-gate analyses

For cradle-to-gate studies, the formula is simplified. In this simplified approach, only the first part of the material part is relevant, as the end-of-life phase is not included in the calculations.

The CFF for cradle-to-gate studies considers the impact of the virgin material and the impact of the recycled material input. This includes emissions from the recycling process as well as allocated impacts from primary material production.



share of recycled material

EF virgin

emission factor of virgin material

EF recycled

emission factor of the recycling process


pre-determined allocation factor depending on the material

Q sin / Q out

pre-determined quality ratio determining the quality difference of the virgin and recycled material depending on the material

Imagine a product that is made from 80 % recycled PET and 20 % virgin PET. In order to calculate a PEF-compliant PCF, we need to apply the CFF. For cradle-to-gate PCFs, the simplified formula shown above is sufficient.
(1āˆ’0.8)āˆ—2.05+0.8āˆ—0.41+(1āˆ’0.5)āˆ—2.05āˆ—0.9=1.66 (1-0.8)*2.05 + 0.8*0.41 + (1-0.5) * 2.05 * 0.9 = 1.66

-> Now, the EF of 1.66 can be used as material EF for the PET that consists 80 % recycled and 20 % virgin material. It is a bit lower than the virgin material EF which is 2.05 in our example. Take care that depending on the material, different production processes need to be added.

Here is an interesting video to learn more about the CFF. Are you interested in learning more? Here are some helpful links:

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