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New lifecycle environmental impact study finds in favour of cartons

Carton packaging for non-carbonated soft drinks has fared better on environmental impact than other commercially available packaging materials, a comparative Europe-wide lifecycle assessment study has found.

Compared to disposable PET bottles and disposable glass bottles, cartons in all format sizes fared better in respect to CO2 emissions, use of fossil resources and consumption of primary energy. For the commonly used 1 litre packaging format, cartons generated 28% less CO2, used 51% fewer fossil resources and consumed 24% less primary energy compared to monolayer PET bottles.

The critically reviewed study was commissioned by carton manufacturer SIG Combibloc but carried out by the independent Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Germany. It evaluated the packaging materials according to the ISO standard for lifecycle assessments – ISO14040.

SIG Combibloc head of group environment, health and safety Michael Hecker said the results “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 lifecycle assessments”. He added the company was looking to further improve performance by using a new type of paperboard composite to potentially generate around 20% less CO2. SIG Combibloc hopes the study will help better inform the packaging market.

Extraction and refining of the raw materials used to make the packaging was taken into account as well as the process of manufacturing the packaging, transport, the process of packaging the beverage, distribution up to the retail stage and the recycling or disposal of the packaging.

SIG Combibloc manager for product related global environmental sustainability and affairs Udo Felten explained that average recycling rates available from the relevant industry associations in EU27 countries were used in the study, and that both PET bottles using 100% virgin PET and 50% recycled PET were assessed.

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