Switzerland, Jun 28, 2012 - A recent, Europe-wide life-cycle assessment conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) has confirmed that, compared to disposable HDPE and PET bottles, carton packs for UHT milk have a significantly better environmental profile − particularly with respect to CO2 emission, use of fossil resources and consumption of primary energy. In the 1-litre format, carton packs generate 34 per cent less CO2, use 56 per cent less fossil resources, and consume 30 per cent less primary energy compared to HDPE multilayer bottles; when compared to disposable PET bottles, these figures are 45 per cent for CO2, 57 per cent for fossil resources and 36 per cent for primary energy. The comparative, independently verified study of the environmental impact of those UHT milk packaging solutions with the greatest market relevance in Europe sees the good performance of the renewable main raw material and the resource-efficient use of materials as the key factors contributing to the carton pack’s positive results. Carton packs are already manufactured by around 75 per cent from wood, a sustainable, completely renewable and bio-based resource.
Throughout its life cycle, every product has demonstrable environmental impacts – and so packaging does. Life-cycle assessments help to obtain credible, scientifically proven and reliable facts on these impacts. Michael Hecker, Head of Group Environment, Health & Safety at SIG Combibloc: “Our objective was to obtain valid facts about the environmental performance throughout the life-cycle of all current market-relevant packaging solutions for UHT milk. In Europe, alongside carton packs the prevalent packaging solutions include HDPE and PET multilayer bottles in the 1,000 ml volume. In light of this information, we commissioned the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Heidelberg to carry out a comparative, Europe-wide life-cycle assessment studying the environmental impacts of these packaging systems – naturally, in accordance with the ISO Standards 14040ff for life-cycle assessments”. The IFEU Institute is one of the most reputable environmental institutes in Europe, also carrying out studies and analyses for, among others, government ministries, international environmental organisations, Germany’s Federal Environmental Agency, and various companies and corporations.
Comprehensive environmental profile
In the latest life-cycle assessment, all key factors and processes within the life cycles of the various packaging solutions that are of relevance for the product’s environmental performance were evaluated: beginning with the extraction and refining of the raw material used to make the packaging, through the processes of manufacturing and transporting the finished packages, the packaging of the beverage, and distribution up to the retailing stage, right up to 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 the emission-related categories were investigated and evaluated. In terms of resources, 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 criteria relating to climate change measured in CO2, 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 world-wide are emission of greenhouse gases, consumption of fossil resources and use of primary energy sources.
Main criteria: material and quantity
The results of the current study show clearly that the environmental impacts produced by a UHT milk packaging during the packaging life-cycle are determined first and foremost by the material from which the packaging is manufactured, and how much of the material was used. In this context, the current life-cycle assessment proved that the carton pack offers significant benefits − with respect to the use of resources and in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. The specific properties and the composite structure of the carton pack have a beneficial effect in nearly all of the environmental impact categories and especially in all the important ones like ‘Consumption of fossil resources’, ‘Use of primary energy sources’, and ‘CO2-emission/climate change’. Compared to 1-litre HDPE multilayer bottles (the UHT milk packaging solution that has the greatest market relevance in Europe after the carton pack), the carton pack generates 34 per cent less CO2, uses 56 per cent less fossil resources and consumes 30 per cent less primary energy; when compared to disposable PET bottles, these figures are 45 per cent for CO2 emissions, 57 per cent for fossil resources and 36 per cent for primary energy.
Above all, the resource-efficient use of raw paperboard, which is manufactured using a high fraction of renewable energy, and the low weight of a carton pack contribute significantly to its favourable environmental performance. Carton packs use significantly fewer fossil resources than HDPE and PET bottles, because the carton is manufactured by around 75 per cent from pulp fibres obtained from wood, a renewable resource. For this reason, in the 'Use of nature' environmental impact category, the carton pack lags behind the packaging solutions manufactured from fossil resource-based raw materials. In contrast to finite resources, however, with responsible forest management, there can be a constant supply of this renewable raw material. Another positive effect is that with sustainable forest management, 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 exactly 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 Hans-Jürgen Garvens, Dr. Philippe Osset und Dr. Mercedes Hortal.
Michael Hecker: “The results of the current life-cycle assessment show us that when it comes to environmental life-cycle assessments, the carton pack in its current composite structure has clear advantages over other packaging solutions for UHT milk. In its guidance documents the institute that carried out the study is recommending the carton pack to business and consumers as a packaging solution whenever environmental considerations are a factor in decision-making. But that doesn’t mean we can sit back and rest on our laurels − in fact, we’re working continuously to further improve the environmental performance of our carton packs for UHT milk, so that they continue to be one of the most environmentally friendly packaging solutions around. One possibility we’re looking into, for instance, is further increasing the fraction of the sustainable, renewable raw material used in the composite structure of our carton packs, so that we can improve the environmental footprint of the carton pack and at the same time offer consumers the convenience they have come to expect and value”.
With the latest life-cycle assessment, SIG Combibloc now has an up-to-date, valid data set which covers the environmental life-cycle evaluation of carton packs compared to packaging alternatives from every market segment. Following on the heels of the Europe-wide life-cycle assessment for food packaging (2009) and the Europe-wide life-cycle assessment of NCSD packaging (2011), with the new IFEU analysis there is now a comprehensive, scientifically proven investigation of the environmental performance of packaging solutions for UHT milk products. The wider view across all studies shows that carton packs offer a significantly better environmental performance than the competing packaging systems. This applies above all for the key indicator CO2 and fossil resources categories, and for the consumption of energy category.
LCA Packaging UHT Milk:
A recent, Europe-wide life-cycle assessment conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) has confirmed that, compared to disposable HDPE and PET bottles, carton packs for UHT milk have a significantly better environmental profile − particularly with respect to CO2 emission, use of fossil resources and consumption of primary energy.
Photo: SIG Combibloc
Climate Change / Fossile resource consumption / Energy Consumption
Compared to 1-litre HDPE multilayer bottles, the carton pack generates 34 per cent less CO2, uses 56 per cent less fossil resources and consumes 30 per cent less primary energy; when compared to disposable PET bottles, these figures are 45 per cent for CO2 emissions, 57 per cent for fossil resources and 36 per cent for primary energy.
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.
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