Life-cycle assessment for NCSD packaging: carton packs are top performers in the categories CO2 emission and fossil resource consumption
Latest IFEU comparative analysis for PET, glass and carton packs
In politics, economics and consumer interest circles, environmental issues play an important role. And increasingly, the focus is moving on to food packaging. Throughout their entire product life cycle, packaging forms have different environmental impacts. In order to produce valid, scientifically sound and reliable facts on the environmental impacts generated by carton packaging for non-carbonated soft drinks (NCSD) in comparison with packaging alternatives such as glass and PET bottles, SIG Combibloc commissioned the IFEU in Heidelberg (Germany) with carrying out a comparative, Europe-wide life-cycle assessment. The objective of the study was to analyse the environmental impacts of a range of different packaging systems for non-carbonated soft drinks and evaluate them according to ISO 14040ff, the ISO standard for life-cycle assessments. The independent IFEU institute is one of the most reputable environ-mental research institutes in Europe, also carrying out studies and analyses for, among others, government ministries, international environmental and conservation organisations, Germany's Federal Environmental Agency, and various companies and corporations.
Environmental profile throughout the product life-cycle
Michael Hecker, Head of Group Environment, Health & Safety at SIG Combibloc: "The current comparative analysis focused on the market-relevant types of packaging for non-carbonated juices, nectars and juice drinks. In addition to our carton packs, this includes first and foremost monolayer PET bottles. For the sake of completeness, in the 1-litre bracket multilayer PET bottles, which have comparable product protection and barrier characteristics to carton packs, and disposable glass bottles were also included in the life-cycle assessment, although both have considerably lower market significance in this product sector. The study made a thorough evaluation of all key factors and processes of environmental relevance that come into play throughout the life cycles of the different types of packaging". The extraction and refining of the raw materials used to make the packaging were taken into consideration, as were the process of manufacturing the packaging, transport, the process of packaging the beverage, distribution up to the retailing stage, and the recycling or disposal of the packaging after use. At each stage of the product life cycle, the key environmental impact categories relevant to the resource and emissionrelated categories were investigated and evaluated. In terms of resource consumption, factors such as the consumption of fossil resources, the amount of primary energy used and the use of nature are looked at. With respect to emissions, it is the CO2 output and the associated climate change, the particulate loading of the air and the eutrophication and acidification of soils and watercourses that are of interest. At present, the key environmental impact categories are emission of greenhouse gases, consumption of fossil resources and use of primary energy sources.
Material and quantity are the decisive factors
The current study, carried out in accordance with the internationally binding ISO standards for life-cycle assessments, verifies that the material and the quantity of material used are the key factors determining the environmental impact of a packaging system for NCSD products during the life cycle of the packaging. In all three sizes evaluated (small size: PET/carton pack 250 ml, glass 200 ml; medium size: all three packaging systems 1,000 ml; large size: PET/carton pack 1,500 ml), the comparative analysis showed that the carton pack offers significant advantages ? with respect to CO2 emissions and to use of fossil resources. The properties of the carton packs have a beneficial effect in the environmental impact categories 'Consumption of fossil resources', 'Use of primary energy sources', and 'CO2 output/climate change'. In the medium format, which has the greatest market relevance in the juices, nectars & juice drinks sector, compared with monolayer PET bottles, carton packs generate 28 per cent less CO2 emissions, use 51 per cent less fossil resources and consume 24 per cent less primary energy (Reduction compared to glass: CO2: -70 per cent; fossil resources: -68 per cent; primary energy: -56 per cent. Reduction compared to multilayer PET bottles: CO2: -39 per cent; fossil resources: -58 per cent; primary energy: -34 per cent). In the small format, compared to PET monolayer bottles the carton pack generates 64 per cent less CO2, uses 75 per cent less fossil resources, and consumes 61 per cent less primary energy (Reduction compared to glass: CO2: -80 per cent; fossil resources: -77 per cent; primary energy: -69 per cent). And in the large format too, compared to PET monolayer bottles, the carton pack saves 18 per cent on CO2 emissions, 47 per cent on fossil resources and 14 per cent on primary en-ergy. Due to a lack of market relevance, glass bottles were not considered in this format size.
The resource-efficient use of renewable raw material - which moreover is manufactured using a high fraction of renewable energy - and the low weight contribute significantly to the positive environmental performance of the carton pack. Carton packs use significantly fewer fossil re-sources than PET and glass bottles, because they are manufactured up to 75 per cent from pulp fibres obtained from wood, a renewable resource. Consequently, in the impact category 'Use of nature' the carton pack lags behind the packaging forms manufactured from fossil resource-based raw materials; but in contrast to finite resources, with responsible forest management there can be a constant supply of this renewable raw material. Added to this is the fact that wood is carbon-neutral and therefore does not alter the CO2 balance of the atmosphere. The reason for this CO2 neutrality is that while they are growing, trees extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it. When they later burn or decay, they release only the same quantity of CO2 that they absorbed during their lifespan.
The results of the life-cycle assessment conducted by the IFEU have been monitored, critically reviewed and confirmed by independent LCA and packaging experts Prof. Dr. Walter Klöpffer, Hans-Jürgen Garvens and Dr. Fredy Dinkel.
Michael Hecker: "The packaging industry is very dynamic. The results of the most recent, critically reviewed life-cycle assessment for soft drinks packaging solutions show very clearly that even with planned enhancements to the packaging alternatives - such as the use of PET recyclates - the carton pack in its current composite structure will continue to show clear advantages when it comes to environmental life-cycle assessments. But in terms of development, we're not resting on our laurels either - we're hard at work on innovations to further minimise the environmental footprint of our carton packs for NCSD products, so that they continue to be one of the most environmentally friendly packaging solutions around. For instance, in the juices, nectars & juice drinks sector, we're looking into a new type of paperboard composite that will potentially generate around 20 per cent less CO2".
SIG Combibloc is one of the world's leading system suppliers of carton packaging and filling machines for beverages and food. In 2010 the company achieved a turnover of 1,360 million Euro with around 4,650 employees in 40 countries. SIG Combibloc is part of the New Zealand based Rank Group.