Cartons perform well in lifecycle assessment

An environmental lifecycle assessment (LCA) has found that single-use beverage cartons compare favourably with reusable glass bottles – and outperform single-use PET bottles – across the fresh milk, juice and UHT milk market segments.

The results of the critically reviewed LCA study are based on an in-depth analysis of the German beverage packaging market, with expert review and oversight by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA).

SIG chief executive officer Rolf Stangl said: “The latest LCA confirms once again that beverage cartons are the preferred environmental choice for milk and juice packaging. The high proportion of renewable content in single-use beverage cartons puts them on a par even with glass bottles that can be reused multiple times.

“These results are based on standard beverage cartons that are around 75% renewable and SIG already offers customers innovative products that are linked to up to 100% renewable content.”

The study was commissioned by the German Beverage Carton Association FKN and conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU), to support informed decisions on packaging by food producers, consumers and policymakers based on a robust scientific comparison of environmental impact.

Environmental advantages of cartons confirmed

Reusable packaging options, such as glass bottles that are returned to food or beverage producers to be used again, are often assumed to be the best option for the environment.

Based on an in-depth analysis of all three market segments – fresh milk, juices and UHT milk – the beverage carton performs at least as well, or in the case of fresh milk, even better than reusable glass bottles. The latest study also confirms that both beverage cartons and reusable glass bottles outperform PET bottles for fresh milk, juice and UHT milk.

Cartons perform significantly better than the alternatives on climate change – the category given highest ecological priority by the UBA. The climate impact results for cartons are 78% lower than reusable glass bottles for fresh milk, 37% lower than reusable glass bottles for fruit juices and 71% lower than PET bottles for UHT milk (for which no reusable options are available).

The high proportion of renewable material used to make beverage cartons – 75% on average – contributes to their strong environmental performance, together with their highly efficient design which reduces impacts from transport and distribution. The favourable results are underpinned by the industry’s commitment to sourcing from responsibly-managed forests.

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