An environmental lifecycle assessment (LCA) has confirmed that single-use beverage cartons compare favorably with reusable glass bottles – and outperform single-use PET bottles – across the fresh milk, juice and UHT milk market segments.
The results of the 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).
The conclusions support the findings of previous critically reviewed LCAs that beverage cartons offer environmental advantages to alternative forms of packaging for liquid dairy and juices.
“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,” says SIG CEO Rolf Stangl.
“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.”
For informed decision-making
SIG is 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 policymakers based on a robust scientific comparison of environmental impact.
The LCA was conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) in accordance with the recognised ISO 14040/44 international standards.
It is the first study to meet the new requirements stipulated by the UBA for beverage packaging life cycle assessments in Germany.
“The results show that beverage cartons for milk and juice are advantageous compared with single use PET bottles,” says Benedikt Kauertz, scientific director at IFEU.
“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.”
“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 food or beverage producers to be used again, are often assumed to be the best option for the environment.
As a result, 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 – 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.
Where no re-usable system is installed, beverage cartons are clearly advantageous.
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 favorable results are underpinned by the industry’s commitment to sourcing from responsibly-managed forests.