Study says drink cartons greener than glass
The LCA study is based on an analysis of the German beverage packaging market
September 18, 2019
A major new life-cycle assessment (LCA) study from German environmental researchers claims that single-use beverage cartons compare favorably to reusable glass bottles, while also strongly outperform ingsingle-use PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles across the fresh milk, juice, and UHT milk market segments.
The LCA study is based on an analysis of the German beverage packaging market, with expert reviews by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA).
The conclusions are globally relevant and support the findings of previous reviewed LCAs that beverage cartons offer environmental advantages to alternative forms of packaging, according to a leading German beverage carton producer SIG, a member of the German Beverage Carton Association FKN, which commissioned the LCA study to support informed decisions on packaging by food producers, consumers, and policy-makers.
“The latest LCA confirms once again that beverage cartons are the preferred environmental choice for milk and juice packaging,” says SIG’s chief executive officer Rolf Stangl.
“These results are based on standard beverage cartons that are around 75 per cent renewable and SIG already offers customers innovative products that are linked to up to 100-percent renewable content,” Sangle says, stressing that science-based LCA is fundamental to SIG’s approach to product responsibility.
As Benedikt Kauertz, scientific director at IFEU, explains: “The results show that beverage cartons for milk and juice are advantageous compared with single use PET bottles.
“For milk, beverage cartons are even better than the reference system, reusable glass bottles, and for juices beverage cartons perform on a par with the reference system,” Kauertz points out.
“For UHT milk, where no reusable packaging option is available, beverage cartons perform better than the single-use PET bottle alternative.”
Reusable packaging options, such as glass bottles that are returned to producers to be used again, are assumed to be the best option, the LCA study notes.
That is why reusable options, where available for a particular market, are used as the reference system for comparison.
Based on an analysis of all three-market segments, the beverage carton performs as well, or in the case of fresh milk, even better than reusable glass bottles.
In fact, cartons have been found to perform significantly better than the alternatives on climate change––the category given highest ecological priority by the UBA.
The climate results for cartons are 78 per cent lower than reusable bottles for fresh milk, 37 percent lower than reusable glass bottles for juices, and 71 percent lower than PET bottles for UHT milk, according to the study.
The high proportion of renewable material used to make cartons contributes to their environmental performance, together with their design, which reduces impacts from transport and distribution.
The results are underpinned by the industry’s commitment to sourcing from responsibly managed forests, according to the report, which places high value on the positive contribution that renewable materials make to the environmental performance of beverage packaging.