New study says plastics is the sustainable packaging choice

By Gayle S. Putrich
Staff Reporter

Published: March 14, 2014 12:29 pm ET
Updated: May 6, 2014 11:57 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Packaging, Sustainability, Public Policy, Polyethylene, Polystyrene, PVC, Polypropylene
Companies & Associations American Chemistry Council

WASHINGTON — Six major categories of plastic packaging significantly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions compared to packaging made with alternative materials, according to a new study.

Compiled by Franklin Associates for the American Chemistry Council and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, and using 2010 as a baseline year, the data shows replacing plastic packaging with alternative materials would result in a 4.5 times more packaging weight, an 80 percent increase in energy use and 130 percent more global warming potential.

“The benefits hold up across a range of different kinds of applications and materials,” said Keith Christman, managing director of plastics markets for ACC. “Because plastics use so much less material in the first place it results in dramatic greenhouse gas reduction, and that’s just the start. It really adds up across the different types of packaging, to the equivalent of taking more than 15 million cars off the road.”

The study pits the six major packaging resins — low density polyethylene, high density PE, polypropylene, PVC, polystyrene, expanded PS, PET — against paper, glass, steel, aluminum, textiles, rubber, and cork. It considers the implications of the materials used in caps and closures, beverage containers, other rigid containers, shopping bags, shrink wrap, and other flexible packaging in a detailed life cycle assessment.

Individual studies on particular products have been done before, Christman said, on products ranging from plastic pouches vs. cans for tuna and EPS vs. paper cups. But the new study, titled Impact of Plastics Packaging on Life Cycle Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States and Canada, is comparatively sweeping.

It contains more than 50 tables and 16 charts and illustrations and examines each of the major life cycle stages for packaging: raw material production, packaging fabrication, distribution transport, post-consumer disposal and recycling.

The study also offers a glimpse into the potential unintended consequences of proposed and recently enacted bans on plastic packaging products, Christman said. While a plastic bottle ban might keep bottles out of waterways, the increase in energy use to manufacture, transport and even recycle their glass counterparts would be dramatic, according to the numbers.

“I don’t think that’s what people intend by some of those policies,” Christman said. “But it could happen if policies force people back to alternatives that use more energy and produce more greenhouse gas emissions.”


Comments

New study says plastics is the sustainable packaging choice

By Gayle S. Putrich
Staff Reporter

Published: March 14, 2014 12:29 pm ET
Updated: May 6, 2014 11:57 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Aimplas collaborates with Solarays

December 15, 2014 9:02 am ET

Aimplas, the Technological Institute of Plastics located in Valencia, Spain, has collaborated with Solarays to create a new system which generates...    More

Image

Study on ocean plastics turns up some surprises

December 12, 2014 11:53 am ET

WASHINGTON — An estimated 269,000 tons of plastic trash is churning around in the world’s oceans, most of it in pieces no bigger than a...    More

Image

UK recycler Eco Plastics sold to German investment group

December 12, 2014 11:19 am ET

Recycler Eco Plastics has been bought by Aurelius AG, a Grünwald, Germany-headquartered investment firm, for an undisclosed sum.    More

Image

Critics say conditions aren't improving in Chinese toy factories

December 11, 2014 6:02 pm ET

WASHINGTON — Working conditions in Chinese toy factories, most of them plastics related, are not improving, even under the watchful eye of non-...    More

Image

High prices spark energy-saving technology in Mexico

December 11, 2014 12:55 pm ET

MEXICO CITY — With electricity in Mexico reported to be between 25 to 73 percent more expensive than in the United States, variable frequency dr...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events