Cat litter is essential for most cat owners. It helps to prevent strong odors from flowing through homes and it provides cats with a safe place to use the bathroom. But, have you ever considered the packaging cat litter comes in? Because it is a heavy product that needs to remain moisture free, cat litter requires strong and reliable packaging.
In this life cycle assessment case study, three types of cat litter packaging were compared for their sustainability benefits and impact on the environment from a full beginning to end-of-life cycle. When comparing a flexible stand-up bag, a paperboard barrier carton and a rigid plastic pail with handle, the case study revealed the following:
- The paperboard barrier carton uses 3,573% more water than the flexible stand-up bag.
- The rigid plastic pails’ water footprint is 1,370% higher than the stand-up bag in flexible packaging.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- Compared to the flexible stand-up bag, the paperboard barrier carton emits 331% more greenhouse gas emissions and the rigid pail emits 996% more.
Fossil Fuel Consumption:
- The paperboard barrier carton uses 69.6% more fossil fuel than the flexible stand-up bag due to the carton’s weight and energy needed in the paper making process.
- In comparison to the stand-up bag in flexible packaging, the rigid pail requires 11x as much material and uses 1,429% more fossil fuel in manufacturing.
Cat litter packaged in flexible packaging also has significant recovery and source reduction benefits. This means it uses less resources to produce, and it is able to be reused. According to the U.S. EPA Waste Hierarchy, the most preferred method for waste management is source reduction!
The flexible stand-up bag sends approximately 9x less material to landfills than the paperboard barrier carton, and about 12x less material by weight than the rigid pail, even considering the recycling rate of the pail.
The recycling rate of the plastic rigid pail and its lid would need to jump from 11.1% to 90% to have the same amount of material sent to landfills as the flexible stand-up bag. The stand-up bag in flexible packaging also has a higher product-to-package ratio compared to the barrier carton and the rigid pail.
Next time you purchase cat litter, why not consider its impact on the environment along with its impact on you and your feline friend’s home. Cat litter in flexible packaging is a more environmentally friendly and sustainable choice than other types of packaging. Its low carbon impact, fossil fuel usage, water usage, and amount of material to landfill all contribute to flexible packaging’s environmental benefits!
To view the full cat litter case study, visit flexpack.org. For more information and methodologies of assessments, click here 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.