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Life Cycle Assessment Case Study – Baby Food Package Comparison

Baby food packaging has completely transformed over the past 10 years, evolving from glass jars to plastic thermoformed tubs and flexible stand-up pouches with fitments. Many parents today enjoy the convenience of flexible stand-up pouches because they are shatterproof, less messy, resealable, and reusable. However, it is not just consumers who benefit from flexible pouches.

In this Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study, the life cycles of a stand-up flexible pouch, plastic tub, and glass jar were reviewed for their environmental impacts. When comparing the water consumption, carbon impact, and material disposal position within a full life cycle of the three packaging options, the case study found the following:

  • Water consumption:The glass jar uses 1,294% more water than the stand-up flexible pouch.

 

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The glass jar uses 10x more material than the other two packages, and emits +302% more greenhouse gases than the stand-up flexible pouch.

 

 

  • Fossil Fuel Consumption: The glass jar uses 98.8% more fossil fuel than the stand-up flexible pouch.

 

 

According to the U.S. EPA Waste Hierarchy, the most preferred method for waste management is source reduction, or using less resources to produce and reusing the package. Because of the flexible stand-up pouches high product-to-package ratio, it sends less material to landfills than the glass jar and plastic tub.

  • The plastic thermoformed tub has a barrier layer that is difficult to process. This results in a 0% recycling rate, and 30% more of them end up in landfills compared to the flexible pouch.
  • Glass containers have a recycling rate of just over 30%, but the glass jar still sends 7x more material to landfills than the flexible stand-up pouch.

As you can see, baby food packaged in stand-up flexible pouches are not only convenient for parents and other consumers, they also provide positive, sustainable benefits to the environment as well.

To view the full baby food package case study, visit flexpack.org. For more information and methodologies of assessments, please visit www.flexpack.orgto download Flexible Packaging Association’s “A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World” report and refer to pages 129-167.

 

16 Ways to Reuse Flexible Packaging

When the product inside your flexible package runs out, its life isn’t over! One of flexible packaging’s amazing benefits, along with reducing food waste and being environmentally friendly, is that it is reusable. We encourage all consumers to consider these options to reuse flexible packaging:

16 ways to reuse flexible packaging

When a flexible package’s lifespan does come to an end, you can find a recycling drop-off center with our Terracycle widget! If you would like to share how you reuse flexible packaging, let us know. We are excited to hear from you and continue adding to this list!

Sustainability of Laundry Detergent Pods

Laundry detergent pods are favored by many consumers due to their lack of mess and precise measuring, which makes the process of doing laundry much easier. When taking a closer look, have you considered the larger packaging that carries the laundry pods we’ve all grown to love? Stand-up pouches with zippers and round PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) plastic containers are two popular options that people commonly purchase. We urge you to check out the sustainability benefits of each before choosing which one to purchase. 

In this laundry detergent pod packaging study, both stand-up flexible pouches and rigid PET plastic containers were assessed for their environmental impacts from the beginning to the end of their life cycles. When comparing the water consumption, carbon impact, and material disposal position within a full life cycle of the two packaging options, the case study found the following:                 

  • Water Consumption: The rigid PET container uses +660% more water than the stand-up flexible pouch

 

  • Carbon Impact: The PET container emits +726% more greenhouse gases than the flexible pouch with zipper. 
  • Fossil Fuel Consumption: The PET container’s fossil fuel usage is nearly 504% higher than the flexible stand-up pouch and the package weight is 6 times heavier.

The U.S. EPA Waste Hierarchy cites source reduction, or using less resources to produce, and reuse, as the preferred method to reduce overall waste. The stand-up flexible pouch uses less water and energy to produce and it is lighter and more efficient for shipping purposes. This helps to reduce waste before it even has the chance to start!

When evaluating recovery benefits, the study found that the PET container sends 4x more material to landfills than the stand-up flexible pouch. The recycling rate of the PET container and its cap would need to jump from 30% to over 80% to match the flexible pouch’s amount of landfilled material. 

As you can see, the stand-up flexible pouch is a more sustainable option for laundry pod packaging. Its low carbon impact, fossil fuel usage, water usage, and amount of material in landfills all contribute to flexible packaging’s environmental benefits. 

To view the full case study, visit flexpack.org. For more information and methodologies of the assessments, visit www.flexpack.org to download the Flexible Packaging Association’s “A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World” report and refer to pages 129-167.

How Flexible Packaging Reduces Food Waste

In the United States, 1/3 of food waste is from cooking or serving too much, and 2/3 of food waste is due to food spoilage. This results in 1.3 billion tons of food thrown out annually! Food waste is also a major source of greenhouse gases and methane gas in landfills. While flexible packaging reduces waste during its whole lifespan, reducing food waste is a major contribution to its sustainability.

Flexible processing technologies reduce food waste because they extend product shelf life and freshness even further without the use of preservatives. Other contributing factors include resealable packages, cook and serve packages, portion control, and portability. All of these features allow consumers to use only what they need and keep the rest of their products fresh for longer! For example, grapes without flexible packaging will stay good for about seven days. However, when they are in flexible packaging, they will stay fresh for up to 70 days! This means consumers are wasting less food and saving money on products that have spoiled.

Our industry is always developing and promoting new processing technologies to ensure flexible packaging is extending shelf life and freshness without the use of preservatives. From vacuum packing, using extreme high pressure, or replacing the oxygen in a package with another inert gas, the flexible packaging industry is always seeking to improve and utilize innovative ideas. Innovation and technology allows flexible packaging manufacturers to use fewer natural resources in the creation of their packaging, use the least amount of packaging necessary to protect and preserve the product, creating less waste in the first place. To read more about how flexible packaging can help reduce food waste in your home, click here!

Life Cycle Assessment: Coffee Packaging Case Study

Ground coffee is enjoyed by many people throughout the world. The average American drinks 3.2 cups a day! But have you ever considered the packaging coffee comes in? Surprisingly, you have many options, and we encourage you to check out the sustainability benefits before deciding which ground coffee to purchase. In this coffee packaging study, a 12 oz. stand-up flexible pouch, an 8 oz. steel can, and a 10.8 oz. plastic canister were evaluated for their environmental impacts, with a full beginning to end life cycle.

When comparing the water consumption, carbon impact, and material disposal position within a full life cycle of these packaging options, the case study found:                

  • Water Consumption: 
    • The steel can uses 16x as much water as the stand-up flexible pouch, mainly during the material development stage.
    • The plastic canister consumes 2x as much water as the stand-up flexible pouch due to water usage during the injection molding process.
  • Carbon Impact: The plastic canister and steel can respectively emit 4x and 7x more GHG emissions than the stand-up flexible pouch.
  • Fossil Fuel Consumption: A steel can and plastic canister respectively use 453% and 518% more fossil fuel than a stand-up flexible pouch.

According to the U.S. EPA Waste Hierarchy, the most preferred method for waste management is source reduction, or using less resources to produce and reuse the packaging. Flexible stand-up pouches use less water and energy to produce, are lighter and more efficient for shipping purposes, contribute to the reduction of food waste, and are resealable. This helps to reduce waste before it even has the chance to be created!

When evaluating recovery benefits, the study found that stand-up flexible pouches send far less materials to landfills compared to the other packaging options:

  • The plastic canister’s recycling rate would need to jump from 34% to 84% to have the same net discards as the stand-up flexible pouch
  • The steel can’s recycling rate would need to increase from 71% to 93% to match the stand-up flexible pouches’ amount of landfilled material

As you can see, the stand-up flexible pouch is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable option when it comes to packaging. Its low carbon impact, fossil fuel usage, water usage, and amount of material to landfill all contribute to flexible packaging’s environmental attributes. Not to mention, stand-up flexible pouches also have a high product-to-package ratio, meaning you’ll have more fresh coffee to enjoy!

To view the full coffee packaging case study, visit flexpack.org. For more information and methodologies of the assessments, visit www.flexpack.org to download Flexible Packaging Association’s “A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World” report and refer to pages 129-166.