An environmental lifecycle assessment (LCA) in Germany has said that beverage cartons – across the fresh milk, juice and UHT milk market segments – offer environmental advantages to alternative forms of packaging for liquid dairy and juices.

Reusable packaging options, such as glass bottles that are returned to food or beverage producers to be used again, are often assumed to be the best option for the environment.

Based on an in-depth analysis of all three market segments – fresh milk, juices and UHT milk – the study said beverage carton performs at least as well, or in the case of fresh milk, even better than reusable glass bottles.

It also found that both beverage cartons and reusable glass bottles outperform PET bottles for fresh milk, juice and UHT milk. Where no re-usable system is installed, beverage cartons are clearly advantageous.

Rolf Stangl, chief executive of aseptic carton packaging giant SIG, said the study confirmed that beverage cartons are ‘the preferred’ environmental choice for milk and juice packaging.

“The high proportion of renewable content in single-use beverage cartons puts them on a par even with glass bottles that can be reused multiple times. These results are based on standard beverage cartons that are around 75% renewable and SIG already offers customers innovative products that are linked to up to 100% renewable content.”

SIG is a member of the German Beverage Carton Association FKN, which commissioned the LCA study to support informed decisions on packaging by food producers, consumers and policymakers.

The LCA was conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU), and Benedikt Kauertz, Scientific Director at IFEU, said: “The results show that beverage cartons for milk and juice are advantageous compared with single use PET bottles. For milk, beverage cartons are even better than the reference system, reusable glass bottles, and for juices beverage cartons perform on a par with the reference system. For UHT milk, where no reusable packaging option is available, beverage cartons perform better than the single-use PET bottle alternative.”

Of course, there is always claim and counter-claim when it comes to the packaging industry and the relative environmental credentials of each option. The glass industry, in particular, is always keen to stress how it manages to beat global standards, and improve year-on-year, but it feels as if there is a continued movement for alternative materials.

Whether or not cartons can really be used for all options remains to be seen of course, and the fact that the study relegates PET to being the “worst” option will provide a degree of comfort to glass container makers. However, the constant attention on raw material usage and energy consumption in production will doubtless irk some of the sector’s mid-range suppliers who are often more prone to subtle shifts in consumerism. We shall continue to watch with interest…

Happy reading!


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