The Flexible Packaging Association’s (FPA) recent report, "A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World," highlights the sustainability benefits of flexible packaging. FPA commissioned PTIS, LLC to provide a holistic view on the sustainability benefits that flexible packaging offers; provide foresight into future sustainability implications for flexible packaging; and develop six Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) case studies comparing flexible packaging to other packaging formats across a range of products.
The LCA case studies were developed using the EcoImpact-COMPASS LCA software, which allows for quick life cycle comparisons between different packaging formats. The results from the case studies show that flexible packaging has more favorable environmental attributes for carbon impact, fossil fuel usage, water usage, product-to-package ratio, as well as the amount of packaging material going to the landfill when compared to other packaging formats for the same products.
Coffee is a popular beverage and ground coffee is packaged in a variety of package formats. For the LCA case study, the stand-up flexible pouch, steel can and rigid plastic canister package formats were evaluated for their environmental impacts with a cradle to grave boundary.
The steel can uses 16x as much water as the stand-up flexible pouch, mainly during the material development stage, as large amounts of water are used during the cooling process in the formation of steel. The rigid plastic canister consumes 2x as much water as the stand-up flexible pouch due to water usage during the injection molding process.
The production of steel cans and the rigid canister both require much more energy and have higher carbon emissions in the manufacturing or conversion stage. The carbon impact is lower for a lighter weight stand-up flexible pouch that holds more of the product and uses less material. The rigid canister and steel can respectively emit 4x and 7x more GHG emissions than the flexible pouch.
A flexible pouch has lower overall fossil fuel usage. A steel can and rigid canister respectively use 453% and 518% more fossil fuel than a stand-up flexible pouch. The stand-up flexible pouch results in a more favorable environmental outcome from a carbon impact, water consumption and material discarded position than the other ground coffee packaging formats. This is driven by the flexible stand-up pouch’s lower amount of packaging material, which results in a favorable product-to-package ratio.
The case study can be downloaded by clicking here. For more information on the case study and the sustainability benefits of flexible packaging, visit www.flexpack.org, or contact FPA at firstname.lastname@example.org.