Today, shoppers, brands, and retailers are all focused on more sustainable packaging solutions. To determine which packaging alternatives are better for the environment, you really need to consider all impacts throughout a package’s life cycle must be considered. These “Life Cycle Assessments” reveal that flexible packaging typically creates less environmental impact compared to traditional packaging options. Here’s a simplified look at the impacts that factor into the calculation:
Manufacture – materials, energy and water used, emissions generated
Use – transportation costs, shelf life, potential waste
End of Life – recycling potential versus landfill waste generated
The Sustainability Benefits of Multilayer Pouch Packaging, Plastic Packaging Perspectives – 1:11
Below find several specific examples from case studies comparing every day products using flexible packaging versus other types of packaging. See the difference in environmental impact across the entire life cycle: greenhouse gas emissions (carbon impact), fossil fuel usage, water usage, product-to-package ratio, as well as material to landfill. Click to review more complete Life Cycle Assessment case studies.
Case Study Comparisons
A rigid PET container for laundry detergent pods emits +726% more greenhouse gases than a flexible pouch with zipper
A HDPE bottle for motor oil packaging consumes +513% more water than a flexible pouch with fitment
FOSSIL FUEL USAGE
A rigid pail for cat litter packaging consumes +1,429% more fossil fuel than a flexible bag
MATERIAL TO LANDFILL
+31% more thermoformed tubs for baby food packaging ends up in a landfill compared to a flexible pouch with fitment
A steel can for packaging coffee consumes +1,605% more water than a flexible pouch
A single serve juice flexible pouch efficiently uses packaging with a product-to-package ratio of +97%
Some of the environmental impact differences between flexible packaging and other packaging are obvious, whereas others are not:
- Flexible packaging has further benefits during manufacturing, since it often ships flat or in rolls instead of fully formed and empty like bottles or cans. This can mean 15-25 fewer trucks to ship the same amount of packaging!
- Transportation benefits continue throughout distribution where flexible packaging is both lighter weight and takes up far less room to store most alternatives due to high “product to package ratios.”
- The process to form glass, rigid plastic, and aluminum require large amounts of heat, which drives high fossil fuel consumption, water use and, in turn, far greater greenhouse gas emissions.
- Even though some materials like glass and steel are recycled at higher rates than flexible packaging, they are so bulky that they are still responsible for sending more package material to landfills than flexibles.