The study found that a reusable plastic crate produces 88% fewer carbon emissions than a single-use cardboard box
Reusable packaging – such as bottles, crates, jars, and others – are more climate-friendly as they produce far fewer carbon emissions than their single-use counterparts, according to a new study.
The report – put together by non-government organisation Zero Waste Europe and company Reloop, in partnership with the University of Utrecht – found that reusable glass bottles produce 85% fewer carbon emissions than a single-use glass bottle.
Alongside this, it found that reusable glass bottles produce 75% fewer carbon emissions than PET plastic, and 57% fewer carbon emissions than aluminium cans.
Zero Waste Europe’s consumption and production campaigner Larissa Copello said: “The report reinforces the need to stop looking at packaging as an essential asset to a product, and to start focusing on efficiency and rethinking the current way of delivering products to consumers.
“While the Covid-19 pandemic has hit our society in a hard way, it has also created momentum for policy-makers to act and move away from the current overpacked culture and towards more conscious production and consumption.”
Way reusable packaging is transported has the biggest effect on how climate-friendly a product is, study finds
The study, titled Reusable vs Single-Use Packaging: A Review of Environmental Impact, compared 32 Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of 11 different types of packaging, analysing their environmental impact at different stages of the product’s life.
This includes parameters such as production, transport, number of reuse opportunities and end-of-life treatment.
The study found that a reusable plastic crate produces 88% fewer carbon emissions than a single-use cardboard box, 64% fewer emissions than a box made of mixed materials and 5% fewer emissions than a wooden crate.
Alongside this, it found the way packaging is transported, including distance and mode of transport, has the biggest effect on a piece of packaging’s environmental impact.
The report also identified key measures to improve the environmental sustainability of reusable packaging.
This includes standardisation of packaging, the implementation of deposit return schemes, and changing how the packaging is transported – all of which can bring down the carbon emissions of reusable containers.
Reloop CEO Clarissa Morawski said: “This report shows that there is not a zero-sum choice between reducing carbon emissions and reducing waste when it comes to saving the planet.
“Urgent and innovative measures must be introduced to encourage the use of efficient reusable containers while reducing the impact single-use containers have on the environment.
“The findings tell us that extremely high collection rates are the key to improving the carbon footprint of reusable and single-use packaging.
“Governments must now introduce mandatory measures that require packaging producers to achieve these rates, so that effective solutions, such as deposit systems for beverage containers, can deliver benefits for both the economy and the environment.”