The American Chemistry Council has released a report that analyzes energy consumption, air and water pollution and solid waste from injection molded and thermoformed packaging.
The Washington-based trade association surveyed members of its Rigid Plastics Packaging Group, part of ACC's Plastics Division. ACC issued a news release promoting the study May 9; Franklin Associates, which specializes in life cycle product assessments, issued the report in September.
The 59-page report covers the North American production of injection molded and thermoformed packaging products such as lids, cups and containers like yogurt tubs and butter bins.
Franklin Associates measures a “life cycle inventory” for each process that specifies total energy requirements, water consumption, air pollutants (including greenhouse gases), water pollutants and solid waste. For injection molding, the analysis looks at parts molded from polypropylene and low-density polyethylene. For thermoforming, it examines PP parts.
ACC developed the report for plastics processors, brand owners, retailers and organizations that evaluate the environmental attributes of various types of packaging. The report does not compare plastics packaging with competing materials.
The “cradle-to-gate” data tracks the life cycle up to the factory gate, before the final parts are shipped out, including resin manufacturing, production of other materials, transportation energy for the incoming raw materials and energy required to process the plastic into a finished part.
The study does show that the most energy demand comes from resin production. Energy used to process the resin into the plastic part is much less than that used to manufacture the resin, Franklin Associates said.
The report also includes a very detailed, quantified list of water and air emissions. However, it does not attempt to determine what happens to the emissions or their relative risk to humans or the environment.
Franklin Group is a division of Eastern Research Group in Prairie Valley, Kan.