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 Public Policy, Sustainability, Packaging, Polyethylene, Polypropylene, Polystyrene, PVC
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

World Plastics Council takes on sustainbility for its initial priorities

November 25, 2014 9:51 am ET

The recently formed World Plastics Council (WPC) has set marine debris and post-consumer recycling and energy recover as its initial top priorities.    More

Image

Onex buying packaging group SIG Combibloc

November 24, 2014 9:05 am ET

ex Corp. will buy SIG Combibloc Group, the Switzerland-based manufacturer of aseptic carton packaging and plastics closures from New Zealand's Rank...    More

Image

AMA Plastics adds presses, changes management structure

November 24, 2014 3:57 pm ET

AMA Plastics Inc. has strengthened its management structure, received recognition for entrepreneurship, achieved quality improvements and added three ...    More

Image

Indian plastics group targets waste

November 24, 2014 12:46 pm ET

An Indian plastics environmental group and the country's largest brand for packaged water, Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd., have launched a trial...    More

Image

Can plastics return to the driver's seat?

November 24, 2014 6:00 am ET

When the June 1989 issue of Popular Science introduced three cutting-edge automotive technologies, including the latest Corvette and a powerful engine...    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

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

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

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