FPA life cycle assessment shows benefit of flexible drink pouch over glass bottle
A new life cycle assessment (LCA) report on behalf of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) has highlighted the sustainability benefits of a flexible drink pouch over a glass bottle.
The FPA report, A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World, has looked to highlight the sustainability benefits of flexible packaging. FPA commissioned PTIS to provide a holistic view on the sustainability benefits that flexible packaging offers and provide foresight into future sustainability implications for flexible packaging. PTIS has also worked up six LCA case studies comparing flexible packaging to other packaging formats across a range of products.
FPA noted that beverages are sold in a wide variety of packaging formats based on their volume, content, usage and audience, among other considerations. Beverages are also heavy, requiring a package format that is robust enough to contain the volume without breaking during transport or usage. This specific LCA case study factsheet included/evaluated two popular beverage formats: a flexible drink pouch and a glass bottle, which is often assumed to be more sustainable. The full LCA case study also compares the flexible drink pouch to a PET bottle, aluminum can, and a composite carton, and is available in FPA’s report, A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World, beginning on page 159.
The results of the data comparing the different juice packaging formats show that the flexible drink pouch has a number of significant environmental benefits (fossil fuel usage, carbon impact and water consumption) over the glass bottle, a format thought by many consumers to be more sustainable. The flexible drink pouch also results in much less municipal solid waste than the glass bottle.
The drink pouch LCA showed that the flexible drink pouch, by far, has lower water consumption than the glass bottle because of the small amount of water required for the laminating process. The glass bottle uses large amounts of water during manufacturing as part of the cooling process. Further, the flexible drink pouch has lower overall greenhouse gas emissions because of its lightweight and overall efficient material and manufacturing process. The glass bottle has significantly higher emissions than the flexible drink pouch because of the weight of the glass bottle.
The flexible drink pouch also comes out with more favorable results for fossil fuel consumption. The glass bottle requires more material to hold the same amount of product and has a more energy-intensive material production process.
When considering the amount of packaging that ends up as municipal solid waste based on current recycling rates, the glass bottle results in more material ending up in municipal solid waste than the flexible drink pouch (1,213 percent).
The six LCA case studies cover a number of end-use applications and are part of FPA’s to have specific environmental benefits of flexible packaging better understood. Applications covered in the LCA case studies include cat litter, laundry detergent pods, baby food, motor oil, coffee and beverages.
The LCA case studies were developed using the EcoImpact-COMPASS LCA software, which allows for quick lifecycle comparisons between different packaging formats.
FPA has also published the sustainability report, ‘Perspectives on the Meaning of Sustainability in Flexible Packaging’. The association commissioned the study to better understand perspectives on sustainability and packaging among both consumers and brand owners. The study integrates insights from brand owners surveyed online in June 2018 by Packaging World and insights from an online survey of consumers conducted by The Harris Poll in July 2018, both surveys conducted on behalf of FPA.
Read more from FPA and its reports in ‘Label trends’, Labels & Labeling issue 3, 2019