FEVE, the European Glass Container Federation, and the European Aluminium Association (EAA) Packaging Group strongly questioned the use of the life-cycle analysis (LCA) methodology in the research sponsored by PETRA, the PET Resin Association. Both said the the method employed for the PET body research is not designed to produce a carbon footprint comparison between packaging materials.
The cradle-to-grave study, conducted by Franklin Associates for PETRA, compared total energy, solid waste and greenhouse gas emissions per 100,000 ounces of soft drinks packaged in typical 20-oz PET bottles, 8-oz glass bottles, or 12-oz aluminium cans. The results claimed that PET bottles outperform aluminium can and glass bottles in terms of environmental footprint by using less energy, generating less solid waste, and creating significantly fewer greenhouse gases,
But Fabrice Rivet, FEVE director, challenged the validity of using the LCA method, saying the “comparative studies are dependent upon such a huge number of assumptions, that it is difficult to compare like with like and come to fair conclusions - to say the least”.
“LCA is about assessing environmental impacts - and setting improvement targets - and not about questionable claims and self-promotion”, he added.
Cradle to cradle
FEVE also said it strongly supported a ‘cradle to cradle’ approach – which it described as a full LCA – in favour of the ‘cradle to grave’ process adopted in the PET body’s study, as the latter fails to consider reuse or closed-loop recycling.
Rivet called on other packaging sectors to adopt the cradle to cradle approach “which is the best way of getting the full environmental impact of a packaging material”. He explained this was why FEVE had carried out its own LCA focussing solely on glass. This analysis would be sent to its clients to help them perform their own LCA to assess the environmental impact of their products, including the packaging, using the peer-reviewed data, said Rivet.
EAA director Maarten Labberton declined to comment directly on the PETRA study but called on the industry to refrain from exploiting the result of LCAs in this way.
“Life cycle assessments should be used by each sector within the food packaging industry to assess and stimulate environmental improvement in their own production processes and product development and not to draw environmental input and outputs comparisons with other types of packaging materials as it is impossible to compare like with like in this respect,” he said.