Packaging is required to protect virtually all products in transit and storage until they reach consumers. Most of us have experienced over-packaged products and the inefficient use of packaging materials is an area that is ripe for optimization. Recycling rates have generally plateaued in most countries, and in any case, end-of-life recycling alone cannot move us toward sustainable packaging.
Packaging systems must be designed with care, using the least amount of materials/energy, maximizing recycled content, and increasing the potential for reuse. Understanding the full life cycle of these systems is critical for optimizing their environmental performance. A life-cycle carbon footprint analysis of packaging systems — for both consumer and industrial products – is a crucial analytical tool that can help advance the cause of sustainable packaging.
What are Packaging Carbon Footprints?
The carbon footprint of a packaging system is the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emitted over the life cycle of that product or service, expressed as kilograms of CO2 equivalents. This includes all greenhouse gases generated in the manufacture of the raw materials, fabrication of the packaging system, transport of materials and finished systems, the use phase including refurbishment and reuse, and end-of-life disposal. This carbon footprint is often included in the
analysis of the larger production system that uses the packaging, but it can also be seen as a distinct environmental performance metric that can be calculated and optimized separately.