Responsible editor: Yi Yang
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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.
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.
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.