Plant-Based Packaging

More researches are confirming the continued popularity of plant-based packaging. According to a report by the Plant-Based Products Council (PBPC), about 59% of consumers are interested in products and packaging made from plant sources. It makes a market of more than 136 million.

This rising trend shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the environmental awareness campaigns influencing customers for long. In this scenario, corrugated has been one of the most environmentally friendly packaging options available.

Since new research support customer preferences for plant-based packaging materials, PBPC now considers it a mission to spread awareness about the benefits of plant-based packaging among manufacturing companies and consumers. In this article, we will discuss the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of plant-based packaging materials.

What is LCA?

Life cycle assessment is a cradle-to-grave or cradle-to-cradle analysis of a product’s tendency to affect the environment. In other words, LCA keeps track of a product from its resource to disposal and takes into consideration its impact on the environment.

The best thing about LCA is that it helps decision-makers and designers to consider the negative impact of their processes on the environment. It also helps identify the most damaging periods in the life-span of material, allowing experts to find greener alternatives for the parts that are most problematic.

The issue with a formal life cycle analysis is that it can take months to complete and requires the application of the ISO 14040 method. In such a scenario, a rapid informal assessment may help designers make the most informed decisions. This quick scan method involves the following steps.

  • Goal definition and scooping
  • Inventory
  • Impact assessment
  • Valuation
  • Improvement

This quicker LCA method can help keep projects on track while letting designers make more informed decisions to improve their sustainability efforts.

Plant-based corrugated packaging LCA

Corrugated materials are proven to be beneficial for the environment. According to a study, about 96% of corrugated produced in 2018 headed to recycling units. All that material was used in the manufacturing of new packaging materials. Because it consists of plant-based materials, corrugated is a highly renewable packaging material.

Now, you may wonder how the corrugated does in LCA. The most recent LCA for corrugated was updated in 2017 by the Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA). This report shows a 35% reduction in GHG emissions between 2006 and 2014.

The process involved in the corrugated LCA starts from forestry, leads into the containerboard mills that process raw materials including coatings and adhesives, and giving off emissions in the air, water, and land. The next step is the conversion of plants. This process involves the use of energy, fuels, and electricity, giving off emissions. The final step of this process involves transportation to customers, after which the packaging product lands into the recycling units or landfills.

This study suggests that corrugated is consistently improving. New methods tend to improve the process of using plant-based sources to create packaging solutions. As a result, the reputation of corrugated has risen quite a bit in recent times.

If you want to use corrugated for your packaging applications, you will need to discuss your requirements with a packaging consultant.