RCI’s position paper: “Mass Balance and Free Attribution” (October 2022)


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This position paper highlights the importance of mass balance and free attribution “MBFA” as one possible way to incentivise the transformation of the chemical sector away from fossil and on towards renewable carbon.

The term “mass balance” has become established to describe systems in which biomass, CO2 and secondary materials are used as a feedstock, but is not or not fully physically traced to the end product . It is common practice in many value chains in which large scale capacities are involved in one or more steps of the value chain that require mixing the sustainable with conventional material to fill the capacity. The approach makes it possible to substitute large quantities of fossil raw materials and attractive renewable content shares can be attributed to desired materials or products for which demand on the market exists. This incentivises a stepwise continuous transformation to increase the share of renewable carbon in particular for the large-scale chemical industry

However, the term “mass balance” is somewhat unfortunate because it is too general, and does not mention the essence of the method: the free attribution of the bio-based, CO2-based or chemically recycled share in the feedstock mix to certain selected end products.

The RCI recommends to only speak of “mass balance and free attribution (MBFA)” when talking about such cases, as this is how the complete method and its two central parts are referred to. This is transparent and honest, building trust from customers, end consumers and society in general. Both, mass balance and the free attribution are based on solid and established certifications.

Besides terminology, there is still a need for regulatory harmonisation between the schemes of the existing certification systems. MBFA cannot only be applied for bio-based feedstock, but also for CO/CO2 or feedstock from chemical recycling, both will gain strongly in importance in the coming years. Every MBFA scheme should cover these three renewable feedstocks: biomass, CO/CO2 and recycling.



Renewable Carbon Initiative (RCI)
Date of publication
Dec 2022
File type