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Sustainability Benefits of Motor Oil Packaged In Flexible Packaging

Motor oil is a necessity, regardless of what you’re driving. But have you ever considered the packaging it comes in? Each year, an estimated 180 million gallons of used motor oil goes into the ground, down sewers and into landfills. We encourage you to check out the sustainability benefits of different motor oil packages before you make your next purchase.

In this packaging case study, motor oil in flexible stand-up pouches with fitments and rigid HDPE bottle formats 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 the two packages, the case study found:

  • Water Consumption: The HDPE bottle uses 6x more water than the flexible stand-up pouch, mainly during the material development stage.
  • Carbon Impact: 
    • The rigid HDPE bottle emits 1.5x more greenhouse gas emissions than the stand-up flexible pouch.
    • Rigid HDPE bottles are recycled at a rate of 34.4%, but 2x more material ends up in landfills compared to the flexible stand-up pouch. 
  • Fossil Fuel Consumption: The rigid HDPE bottle weighs about 3x more than the flexible stand-up pouch and uses 173% more fossil fuel resources. 

The U.S. EPA Waste Hierarchy cites source reduction, or using less resources in production, as the preferred method for waste management. While both packages enable efficiency through high product-to-package ratios, the flexible stand-up pouch comes out ahead. Flexible stand-up pouches use less water and energy to produce and require fewer trucks for shipping, providing an eco-friendly package for motor oil. 

When evaluating recovery benefits, the study found:

  • Stand-up flexible pouches send far less materials to landfills than rigid HDPE bottles, which result in almost 2x more material ending up as municipal solid waste. 
  • The rigid HDPE bottle’s recycling rate would need to jump from 34.4% to 64% to have the same net discards as the stand-up flexible pouch.

As you can see, motor oil packaged in stand-up flexible pouches is more environmentally friendly and sustainable in terms of fossil fuel usage, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, and materials landfilled. Not to mention, the flexible stand-up pouch can be completely emptied, rolled up, and disposed of in a fraction of the space of used bottles, which are not often recycled because of oil residue. 

To view the complete motor oil flexible packaging life cycle assessment 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 129-167.


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