A new study conducted by Franklin Associates for the American Chemistry Council and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, looks at the carbon footprint impact of plastic packaging vs. alternative packaging materials. What they found will most likely be no surprise to those in the plastics industry: six major categories of plastic packaging help to significantly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions when compared with alternative packaging materials such as glass and paperboard.
These six categories are caps & closures, beverage containers, stretch and shrink film, carrier bags, other rigid packaging, and other flexible packaging. For these six packaging categories analyzed by Franklin Associates, 14.4 million metric tons of plastic packaging were used in the U.S. in 2010. If other types of packaging were used to substitute for U.S. plastic packaging, more than 64 million metric tons of packaging would be required, according to the report’s summary.
The substitute packaging would require 80 percent more cumulative energy demand and result in 130 percent more global warming potential impact, expressed as CO2 equivalents, compared to the equivalent plastic packaging.
Canadian plastic packaging use was approximately 1.6 million metric tons in the same time frame. To provide the same service as this amount of plastic packaging, more than 7.1 million metric tons of other packaging materials would be needed. Energy requirements for the substitute packaging would be twice as high as for the equivalent plastic packaging, and the global warming potential impact for the substitute packaging would be more than double the impact of the plastic packaging replaced, according to the report: “The Impact of Plastics Packaging on Life Cycle Energy Consumption & Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States and Canada” and can be found at http://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Education-Resources/Publications/Impact-of-Plastics-Packaging.pdf