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Packaging products are common in all the industrial sectors and in the market. However, packaging design needs to be optimized while avoiding superfluous designs that don't integrate environmental in their design. The Directive 94/62/EC established a framework in order to harmonize the environmental requirements for packaging as well as to determine targets for recycling and recovering packaging waste. In this chapter eco-design projects of different sectors are presented in order to show the different strategies that are used to improve the environmental performance of packaging products. The Carbon Footprint of the products is quantified and used as environmental indicator. Common strategies to reduce the CF of packaging are optimizing the volume and, therefore, reducing the transportation requirements, using renewable materials and optimizing the end-of-life management.
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Chapter 14
Ecodesign and Product Carbon Footprint use in the packaging sector
Esther Sanyé-Mengual
a,
*, Raul García Lozano
a,b
, Jordi Oliver-Solà
a,b
, Carles M. Gasol
a,b
,
Joan Rieradevall
a,c
a
Sostenipra (ICTA-IRTA-Inèdit) – Institute of EnvironmentalScience and Technology (ICTA),
UniversitatAutònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Campus de la UAB s/n, 08193, Bellaterra
(Barcelona), Spain
b
Inèdit – InèditInnovació SL. UAB Research Park. IRTA, 08348 Cabrils, Barcelona, Spain.
c
ChemicalEngineeringDepartment (XRB), UniversitatAutònoma de Barcelona (UAB), 08193,
Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain
*Corresponging author: Esther.Sanye@uab.cat
Abstract
Packaging products are common in all the industrial sectors and in the market. However,
packaging design needs to be optimized while avoiding superfluous designs that don’t integrate
environmental in their design. The Directive 94/62/EC established a framework in order to
harmonize the environmental requirements for packaging as well as to determine targets for
recycling and recovering packaging waste. In this chapter eco-design projects of different
sectors are presented in order to show the different strategies that are used to improve the
environmental performance of packaging products. The Carbon Footprint of the products is
quantified and used as environmental indicator. Common strategies to reduce the CF of
packaging are optimizing the volume and, therefore, reducing the transportation requirements,
using renewable materials and optimizing the end-of-life management.
Keywords: Eco-design, Carbon Footprint, Industrial ecology, Packaging, Sustainable
manufacturing
1. Introduction
Packaging has an extended presence in markets as they have turned into basic elements for
distributing and selling products. Packaging has the function of protect and maintain the product
during the distribution and retail processes. Moreover, packaging has evolved in a new piece of
the product, where design and marketing play an important role. However, the environmental
burdens of products are sometimes increased due to the packaging design (Figure 1). For
example, an informatics device can have different type of packaging (multi-packaging systems)
that can increase the product volume more than 20 times, increasing therefore the environmental
impact of the distribution stage. Moreover, multi-material packaging are common in stores, for
example in food retail or in multi-packaging systems.
Figure 1. Examples of packaging designs that increase the environmental burdens of the
product: Multi-packaging systems, volume increase and multi-material packaging
(Source: Own elaboration).
For example, packaging has an important role in the food sector, where avoids product losses
during distribution as well as enlarges the lifespan of the product during the consumption stage.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), an important
part of food waste is generated during distribution in developing countries, while in Western
Europe food distribution has low values of food waste partly because of a better food packaging
design.
The environmental performance of this sector has recently been analyzed not only as a product
(e.g., Ross and Evans 2003, Zabaniotou and Kassidi 2003) but also as part of the entire lifecycle
of food product (e.g., Koroneos et al. 2005, Sanyé-Mengual et al. 2013, Torrellas et al. 2008).
The packaging used for distribution represents one of the most contributing elements for the life
cycle of a tomato consumed in Barcelona (Sanyé-Mengual et al. 2013), as well as for a tomato
produced in the Canary Islands (Torrellas et al. 2008). Furthermore, packaging increases the
global energy consumption making processed food a highly energy-intensive product (Garnett
2003).
Moreover, food-related packaging is the most common waste in households (Garnett 2003).
According to INCPEN (2001), packaging represented the quarter of the household waste
production in the UK and 70% of this packaging was food-related. This is also related to the
retail stage, where packaging is also a key aspect. When comparing different types of food
stores, packaging of a standard purchasing in a retail park has an impact 2.5 times higher than in
a municipal market due to three main reasons: the overuse of primary packaging (overpacking),
the total amount of materials and the higher presence of multimaterial packaging (Sanyé et al.
2012).
In this context, the EU Directive 94/62/EB and the following ones (European Council 1994,
2004, 2005, 2009a) established a framework for the environmental requirements in packaging
production, as well as determined targets for recycling and recovery. With compliance to the
requirements on Appendix II, a new packaging product can enter the market only if the
manufacturer has taken all the measures to reduce its impact on the environment without
degrading its essential functions. Other legislation also aimed to establish a framework for
better managing packaging waste, such as the Decision 97/129/EC on the identification system
for packaging materials (European Council, 1997).
The main strategies to optimize packaging design regarding the implementation of this legal
framework were based on “packaging optimization” in order to reduce the waste packaging. The
four strategies most used for this purpose were in hierarchical order (Hanssen et al., 2002,
2003):
1) To optimize packaging for reduced waste of products
2) To optimize packaging for maximum material recycling of packaging materials
3) To optimize packaging for minimizing transport work and loss of efficiency in transport
and distribution
4) To optimize packaging through minimizing material consumption
This chapter aims to show the eco-design and Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) methodologies in
the packaging sector. The use of eco-design and carbon footprint methodologies was introduced
(Section 2). Different packaging products from different sectors (Section 3) were assessed with
the eco-design and PCF methods in order to improve their environmental performance. The
common issues regarding the implementation of the PCF accounting in packaging systems and
their materials is presented (Section 4). The eco-design methodology was applied to five
different packaging systems: a multipurpose industrial packaging (Sector 5), a detergent bottle
(Section 6), a technical packaging for lighting products (Section 7) and two food packaging
products (Sections 8 and 9). Finally, a comparative assessment among the results is performed
in order to show the main differences among sectors (Section 10).
2. Eco-design and carbon footprint in packaging
Eco-design is the integration of environmental aspects into the design process in order to
improve the environmental performance of the entire lifecycle of a product (EU Directive on
Eco-design) (European Council 2009b). This tool resulted useful in the improvement of
packaging products in order to compliment with the legal requirements. Common eco-design
strategies implemented in the packaging sector are related to material selection (e.g., use of
renewable or biodegradable materials) (Figure 2), optimization of the volume (i.e., to decrease
the transportation impact) (Figure 2) and multifunctionality of the packaging in order to increase
its lifespan as well as to attract the customer (Figure 3). As commonly implemented in eco-
design projects, other packaging case studies also focused on consuming local materials for the
packaging production (e.g., González-García et al. 2011).
Figure 2. Case studies for optimizing packaging volume and selecting renewable
materials: Footwear packaging (Newton), Cardboard lamp packaging (Audrey Blouin)
and Cardboard box printed with vegetable ink (Good Cacao) (Source: Own edition).
Figure 3. Multifunctional designs for packaging products: (a) Packaging convertible into a
spoon (SpoonLidz), (b) cardboard pack convertible into a handle (Hangerpak), and (c)
paper bag convertible into a handle for clothes (Muji) (Source: Own edition).
On the other hand, Carbon Footprint (CF) (BSI, 2011; ISO 14067) is used as a communicative
tool for companies in order to show to the customer the environmental performance of their
products in terms of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. This tool is useful and understandable
by the general public as climate change and global warming issues have been explained by mass
media as well as CO
2
units are already used in consumable products (e.g., vehicles and
emissions per km).
Moreover, packaging can become a communicative channel for the company as a platform
where the customer can know about eco-labeling, marketing, design and aspects of the
company. In this sense, CF has been used as a tool to communicate the customer the
environmental performance not only about the product (Figure 4a) but also about the packaging
itself (Figure 4b).
Figure 4. (a) Packaging used as a communicative channel for consumers: Carbon
Footprint of food products in Tesco supermarkets (UK) (
Tesco
). (b) Carbon footprint of
packaging improvements of the new design Combibloc EcoPlus of the company SIG (
SIG
)
(Source: Own elaboration).
3. Case studies and methodology
Five eco-design projects in the packaging sector are presented in this chapter. The projects were
implemented in different sectors, from industrial to food packaging, and included both primary
and distribution packaging (Table 1). All the projects were realized by a collaborative team
made of research entities and the company involved.
The projects were performed within the development of the Catalan Ecodesign program
(Catalan government). The Catalan Ecodesign program 2004-2006 was a pioneer experience in
Catalonia that aimed to disseminate the eco-design methodology among the Catalan business
network. The project was driven by the Catalan administration through CEMA (Centre for the
Enterprise and the Enviroment), jointly the collaboration of the association from Terrassa
CECOT (Business confederation of the county of Terrassa), the involved companies and ICTA
(Institute of Environmental Science and Technology). Therefore, it is an interdisciplinary
project developed by a cooperative network within the administration, companies and the
university.
The goals of the Catalan Ecodesign project are to encourage the eco-design as an eco-efficient
and innovative tool, to facilitate the incorporation of eco-design strategies in the business
processes, to develop eco-design tools for economic sectors (such as guides and software), to
train professional in product environmental prevention techniques, to communicate and to
disseminate the program results in order to boost environmental improvements in the Catalan
industry, and to create the Catalan agency of eco-products in cooperation with other
administrations and institutions.
Table 1. Characterization of the case studies: economic sector, packaging and type of
packaging.
Sector Packaging Type of packaging
Industrial Multi-use packaging Distribution
Chemical products Detergent packaging Primary
Technical products Lighting packaging Distribution
Food Meat tray Primary
Food retail Delicatessen Primary - Distribution
The followed eco-design methodology is detailed in Chapter 1, based on González-García et al
(2011). The main steps of which are: Definition of the product, Evaluation of the product,
Definition and selection of the strategies, and Design and validation of the prototype. Regarding
the Qualitative Assessment of Life Cycle Criteria (QALCC) (CPRAC, 2012) stage, the lifecycle
stages included and the aspects evaluated are described in Table 2.
Table 2. Lifecycle stages and aspects of the packaging products included in the Qualitative
Assessment of Life Cycle Criteria (QALCC)
Lifecycle stage Evaluated environmental aspect
Concept Dematerialization
Multifunctionality
Optimization of the function
Materials Elimination of the toxic compounds
Use of recycled material
Reduction of material use
Reused material
Use of renewable resources
Processing Optimization of waste generation
Reduction of water and energy consumption
Energy savings
Use of renewable energy
Distribution Optimization of volume
Use of recycled materials in secondary packaging
Use of reusable secondary packaging
Use of low-impacting fuel
Use Communication-to-user
Information about the material
Durability
End of Life Reutilization potential
Recyclability potential
Energy valorization potential
Reduction of the final waste volume
The quantitative evaluation method used was the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) (ISO, 2006).
Three indicators were used to assess the environmental performance of the product. First, the
normalized CML value was used to show the global environmental performance of the product
and its improvements. This indicator is obtained through the CML 2 Baseline method (Guinée
et al., 2000) for the classification and characterization steps. This method includes 10 indicators
that assess different environmental aspects: abiotic depletion potential, acidification potential,
eutrophication potential, global warming potential, ozone layer depletion potential, human
toxicity potential, ecotoxicity (fresh water, marine, terrestrial) and photochemical oxidation.
Second, the Carbon Footprint (BSI, 2011; ISO 14067, 2013) was used to show the contribution
to the global warming potential of each product (see Section 4). This indicator was chosen as a
well-known and understandable indicator for companies (i.e., CO
2
trade, climate change
awareness, mass media publications, eco-labeling). And, finally, the cumulative energy demand
(CED, MJ) (Hischier et al. 2010) showed the global energy consumption. Moreover, the
packaging improvements were also evaluated through some indicators related to packaging
design. The weight, the volume of the packaging and the transport volume (number of units per
truck capacity) were assessed as design aspects.
Regarding the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) implementation, the PCF methodological
specifications were followed in this chapter. According to the PAS 2050 (BSI 2011) method,
the time period chosen for the assessment was 100 years. The last IPCC coefficients were used
for the conversion from air emissions to CO
2
equivalent units. A cradle-to-cradle approach was
considered for the PCF accounting. The system boundaries and the common processes of the
packaging materials are described below (Figure 5).
Figure 5. Life cycle stages of a packaging product from a cradle-to-cradle approach. Processes and
flows considered in the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) accounting (Source: Own elaboration).
4. Overview of the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) of packaging
systems
The Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) is commonly used in the market (see Section 1). However,
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and indicators such as Global Warming Potential (GWP) are
more broadly used in the literature about when accounting the environmental burdens of
packaging products. Two main packaging sectors are found in the literature: industrial
packaging and food packaging.
Gasol et al. (2008) quantified the environmental burdens of two different options for
distributing electrical cable or optic fiber. A wood pallet and a wood spool were analyzed from
a cradle-to-grave perspective and following the IPCC (2007) method for accounting the Global
Warming potential (GWP). The GWP value obtained for a wood pallet was of 8.18 kg CO
2
eq,
while the wood spool accounted for 87.1 kg CO
2
eq. Manuilova (2003) analyzed the direct
emissions of industrial packaging for chemicals from a life cycle perspective. Considering a
functional unit of 1.000L of chemicals contained, the direct emissions for the different products
were 61 kg CO
2
for a bulk container, 70 kg CO
2
for a composite drum, 53 kg CO
2
for a plastic
drum and 52 kg CO
2
for a steel drum.
In the field of food packaging, several studies have included the packaging as part of the life
cycle of a food product, such as for the beer (Hospido et al. 2005) or the banana supply chain
(Svanes et al. 2013). In the following table the last studies about food packaging are compiled in
order to show the Global Warning Potential (GWP) of different packaging systems. Most of
them apply the LCA methodology for the calculations, apart from Svanes et al. (2013) where
the Product Carbon Footprint (ISO 14067) is followed. Also related to the food sector, Sanyé et
al. (2012) analyzed the packaging related to food purchases, comparing two different retail
options: municipal markets and commercial parks.
Table 3. Last studies on the global warming potential of food packaging products by study,
packaging, Global Warming Potential, approach and method (Source: Own elaboration)
Study Packaging GWP
(g CO
2
eq) Approach Method
Pasqualino et al.
2011 Juice 1L Aseptic carton 113
Cradle-to-grave IPCC, 2007
Beer 330 mL Aluminum can 826
Cradle-to-grave IPCC, 2007
Water 1.5L PET bottle 78
Cradle-to-grave IPCC, 2007
González-García
et al. 2011 Wine - Wood box 314
Cradle-to-gate IPCC, 2007
Madival et al.
2009 Strawberries - PLA
clamshell 171
Cradle-to-grave IMPACT 2002+
Strawberries - PET
clamshell 198
Cradle-to-grave IMPACT 2002+
Strawberries - PS clamshell 165
Cradle-to-grave IMPACT 2002+
Toniolo et al.
2013 Sliced meat - PET tray 78.3
Cradle-to-grave ReCiPe 2008
Sliced meat - Multilayer tray 82.4
Cradle-to-grave ReCiPe 2008
Humbert et al.
2009 Baby food - Glass jar 174
Cradle-to-grave IMPACT2002+
Baby food - Glass pot A 125
Cradle-to-grave IMPACT2002 +
Baby food - Glass pot B 149
Cradle-to-grave IMPACT2002+
Svanes et al.
2013 Banana packaging 80
Cradle-to-grave Product Carbon
Footprint ISO
14067
Albrecht et al.
2013 Wood box for fruit and
vegetables (15kg) 2920
Cradle-to-grave CML Method
Cardboard box for fruit and
vegetables (15kg) 3250
Cradle-to-grave CML Method
Reusable plastic tray for
fruit and vegetables (15kg) 430
Cradle-to-grave CML Method
As a previous work, the common materials of packaging products (e.g., thermoplasts) were
analyzed and their Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) accounted in order to address the use of
certain materials. The PCF per kilogram of material (in terms of CO
2
equivalent) was obtained
for polyethylene (PE) (high density HDPE, and low density - LDPE), polypropylene (PP),
polyvinylchloride (PVC), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), corrugated cardboard and wood
(softwood). For each material, the largest GHG emitted and the most contributing processes
were identified (Table 3). Local data from companies and the Spanish mix were used as
foreground data, while background data was obtained from the ecoinvent 2.2 database
(Ecoinvent 2007, Frischknecht et al. 2004).
The PCF of the materials analyzed ranged from 0.065 to 3.77 kg CO
2
equivalents. The least
impact materials are those renewable ones: wood and cardboard. Both are mainly used for
secondary packaging purposes although in some sectors have a higher presence (e.g., industrial
packaging). Thermoplasts are largely used in the packaging sector, PCF depends mainly on the
country mix as electricity is the most contributing process to the environmental burdens. Within
them, polyethylene and polypropylene are the least impacting materials (Table 4).
Table 4. Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) of different packaging materials, most emitted
GHG and most contributing processes to global warming (Source: Own elaboration)
PCF
(kg CO
2
eq/kg) Greenhouse
Gases Most contributing
processes
HDPE 1.65 CO
2
, CH
4
Electricity consumption
LDPE 2.27 CO
2
, CH
4
Electricity consumption
PP 2.02 CO
2
, CH
4
Electricity consumption
PVC 2.66 CO
2
, CH
4
Electricity consumption
PET 3.77 CO
2
, CH
4
Electricity consumption
Corrugated
cardboard 0.957 CO
2
, CH
4
Raw material obtaining
Wood 0.065 CO
2
, CH
4
Electricity consumption
5. Packaging for the industrial sector
An industrial box for different purposes was selected as a representative product of the
industrial sector. The company produces and distributes packaging products and their designs
may accomplish conditions for containing different products (e.g., weight resistance). The
TriBox industrial box is mainly made of two materials (Figure 5): cardboard and wood. The box
is made of triple-channel cardboard that makes the envelope and it is reinforced with wood
pieces. The box is also reinforced with two wood pieces in the cover. Finally, the set is
integrated with a pallet. This product was designed for processing, internal logistics, storing and
distribution purposes.
Figure 5. Initial product, image and elements of the industrial packaging (Source: Emabamat, Own
elaboration).
The company proposed a design briefing based on two key objectives: to obtain a monomaterial
product and to facilitate the end-of-life management of the product. The quantitative assessment
highlighted the importance of the end-of-life stage due to the difficulty for disassembling both
materials (i.e., for recycling, reusing), which accounts for more than the 60% of the CML
normalized impact. Materials extraction and processing had also an important role in the carbon
footprint (50%) and energy (85%) indicators, where the cardboard processing was the most
contributing process. The Product Carbon Footprint of the initial Tribox is of 16.13 kg of CO
2
(Figure 6).
According to that the implemented strategies were based on design for disassembly, reduce the
amount of materials and the number of different materials. These strategies aimed to facilitate
the end-of-life management while optimizing the environmental impact of the materials
selected. The new Tribox design is composed by the following main elements (Figure 6): a
cardboard box made of DC cardboard, a cardboard cover for the box (DC cardboard), corner
reinforcement pieces (DC cardboard) and a non-integrated pallet (wood). Although wood and
cardboard are also the materials used for this design, the box can be easily disassembled and,
therefore, the materials can be separated for being recycled or recovered during their end-of-life.
Moreover, the wood pallet can now be reused while enlarging its lifespan. Finally, the amount
of materials and the number of elements were optimized for reducing the environmental impact
of the materials extraction and processing stage.
Figure 6. Initial product evaluation of the industrial packaging: Quantitative assessment, by
lifecycle stage. Eco-design product: implemented strategies and qualitative validation (grey shows
the reduce amount for each indicator). The Cumulative Energy Demand (CED), Product Carbon
Footprint (PCF) and Normalized CML impact (Norm) are assessed as indicators (Source: Own
elaboration).
The weight of the product is reduced by almost 35% due to the optimization of materials use in
the box design. This affects positively the environmental issues of the product as the
transportation requirements are reduced. The environmental indicators showed reductions from
7.2% (Carbon Footprint) to 63.5% (CML Normalized). The facilitation of the end-of-life
management contributes significantly to the reduction of the environmental impact (Table 5).
Table 5. Quantitative indicators for the eco-designed industrial packaging regarding design
(weight, volume, transport volume) and environmental improvements (CML norm, PCF and CED).
Design Environmental
Weight
[kg]
Unit
volume
[m
3
]
Transport
volume
[u./truck]
CML
Norm
[Pt]
PCF
[kg CO
2
eq] CED
[MJ]
Initial 25.57 - - 2.01E-11 16.13 603.02
Eco-
design 16.71 - - 7.31E-12 14.96 247.73
Variance
(%) -34.65 - - -63.5 -7.2 -58.9
5. Packaging for chemical products
For chemical product packaging case, a detergent bottle was selected. The company aims to
improve the environmental performance of the packaging as well as to differentiate the product
from their competitors. Moreover, the resulting eco-design strategies are expected to be
implemented in other products of the company.
The packaging is a standard bottle for detergent with a volume of 2L. There are three elements
that compose the packaging: a cap (PP), which includes a measuring cup; a bottle (HDPE), with
an oval base that includes a handle to facilitate its transportation and usage; and a label (PP) that
includes advertising and information about use, toxicology and environmental issues (Figure 7).
The bottle is obtained through a blowing molding, while the processing used for the cap is
injection molding and flexography for the label.
Figure 7. Initial product, image and elements of the technical packaging for a detergent bottle
(Source: KH Lloreda).
As a result of the qualitative assessment, the distribution and the concept stages were identified
as the critical ones. First, there is a need to optimize the packaging for their distribution.
Second, the packaging is not considered innovative in their sector. On the other hand, the
technologies used for the processing are identified as optimal for the design and the materials
used. However, the quantitative assessment focused the attention on the materials and
processing stages, which accounted for more than the 80% of the environmental burdens. The
environmental impact corresponds mainly to the HDPE bottle, which has the highest weight of
the entire packaging. However, the Carbon footprint of the packaging highlighted also the
contribution to the GHG emissions of the disposal of the product in a sanitary landfill. The
detergent packaging obtained a carbon footprint of 322.57 g of CO
2
(Figure 8).
The resulting strategies for the eco-designed products, therefore, focused on optimizing the use
of materials and improving the distribution issue. First, the shape and design of the bottle was
modified. The volume was changed into a smaller but wider bottle (volume reduction of 20%),
with a functional handle that occupies less space. Second, the HDPE for the bottle is changed to
recycled HDPE in order to reduce the consumption of non-renewable materials. Finally, the
design modification resulted in an optimization of the distribution stage (Figure 8).
Figure 8. Initial product evaluation of the detergent bottle: Qualitative and quantitative assessment,
by lifecycle stage. Eco-design product: implemented strategies and qualitative validation (grey
shows the reduce amount for each indicator). The Cumulative Energy Demand (CED), Product
Carbon Footprint (PCF) and Normalized CML impact (Norm) are assessed as indicators (Source:
Own elaboration).
Although the weight and materials use is not reduced, the other design indicators resulted in
positive outcomes. First, the volume of the product is optimized (20% lower). As a result, the
transportation is optimized as 25% more product can be transported per truck. On the other
hand, the environmental impacts were reduced up to 3.1%, both for the global indicator
(normalized CML) and the PCF, while the energy consumption was reduced by 1.6% (Table 6).
Table 6. Quantitative indicators for the eco-designed detergent bottle regarding design (weight,
volume, transport volume) and environmental improvements (CML norm, PCF and CED).
Design Environmental
Weight
[g]
Unit
volume
[cm
3
]
Transport
volume
[u/truck]
CML
Norm
[Pt]
PCF
[g CO
2
eq] CED
[MJ]
Initial 80 3917 36 5.58E-14 322.57 10.45
Eco-
design 80 3132 48 5.41E-14 312.49 10.28
Variance
(%) 0 -20 +25 -3.1 -3.1 -1.6
6. Packaging for technical products (lighting sector)
As a packaging for technical products, the packaging system for a lighting product was selected.
The product was chosen as representative of the packaging used in the company as well as a
multi-packaging system for a lighting compounded by various parts.
The selected packaging is composed by three different packaging related to each part of the
lighting: screen, mast and base (Figure 9). The screen is blocked by six pieces (expanded PE)
situated in the corners and the sides of the screen. Then, the product is thermo-shrink-wrapped
and packed in a cardboard box. Second, the mast is protected with longitudinal block pieces
(expanded PE) and thermo-shrink-wrapped. Finally, the base is protected with two block pieces
in the sides and is packed in a cardboard box. The main function of the packaging is to protect
the different elements of the lighting during the transportation and storage of the product.
Moreover, the packaging is expected to differentiate the products of the company from the
competitors and the logo in the different pieces is used for this purpose.
Figure 9. Initial product, image and elements of the technical packaging for a lighting product
(Source: Lamp).
The use and materials lifecycle stages were the least rated in the qualitative assessment. First,
the lifespan of the packaging should be adapted to the product as well as more information
about the materials should be provided to the customer. Secondly, the use of different materials
is perceived as a negative environmental aspect of the product. On the other hand, the
processing and the distribution are considered the most environmentally-friendly stages due to
the optimization of the process and as secondary packaging are avoided.
The materials extraction and their processing is pointed out as the most contributing lifecycle
stage of the packaging (>72%). Specifically, the PE blocks and film are the most impacting
elements although the cardboard is the most used material. Despite its low contribution to the
Carbon Footprint and the energy consumption indicators, the end-of-life stage has an important
role in the global environmental indicator by accounting for around 25% of the impact. Finally,
the Product Carbon Footprint of the packaging is 4.61 kg of CO
2
and the distribution of the
product contributes with the 7% (Figure 10).
The strategies implemented in the new design are focused on: Reducing the amount of resources
used, Reducing the number of materials and Reducing the consumption of non-renewable
materials. The most impacting elements (PE blocks) were eliminated and substituted by
elements made of renewable materials (cardboard). The new design is mainly composed by
cardboard elements and the different materials can be disassembled easily while facilitating the
end-of-life management (Figure 10).
Figure 10. Initial product evaluation of the technical packaging for a lighting product: Qualitative
and quantitative assessment, by lifecycle stage. Eco-design product: implemented strategies and
qualitative validation (grey shows the reduce amount for each indicator). The Cumulative Energy
Demand (CED), Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) and Normalized CML impact (Norm) are
assessed as indicators (Source: Own elaboration).
Regarding the design aspects, the weight of the packaging was reduced by 4% and the volume
by 36%. Moreover, the facing area was increased by 8% (in the eco-design product it was of
2.11 m
2
). These improvements optimized the environmental requirements of the distribution
stage as well as the use of resources in the packaging itself. The environmental indicators
obtained important reductions from 35.3 to 52.8%. The energy consumption is the most reduced
indicator as the changed from plastic to cardboard implies the reduction of fuel consumption.
The PCF is reduced by 35.3% and the distribution is still the second most contributing lifecycle
stage (Table 7).
Table 7. Quantitative indicators for the eco-designed lighting packaging regarding design (weight,
volume, transport volume) and environmental improvements (CML norm, PCF and CED).
Design Environmental
Weight
[kg]
Unit
volume
[cm
3
]
Transport
volume
[u./truck]
CML
Norm
[Pt]
PCF
[kg CO
2
eq] CED
[MJ]
Initial 2.30 43875 - 2.57E-12 4.61 162.70
Eco-
design 2.21 28080 - 1.48E-12 2.98 76.75
Variance
(%) -4 -36 - -42.3 -35.3 -52.8
7. Packaging for the food sector
A minced meat tray was selected for the food sector packaging case study. The company
produces meat products and retails to supermarkets within Spain and Portugal. Previous to the
study, the enterprise changed some cardboard packaging to trays in order to reduce the material
amount per product while maintaining the functionality.
The minced meat tray was selected among different products as a representative multilayer
product. The multilayer tray has a volume of 740 mL, of which 370 mL are controlled
atmosphere gases, and contains 400 g of minced meat. The packaging is made of a transparent
material composed by three layers: PET, EVOH and PE. The packaging is composed by three
elements (Figure 11). First, a film (multilayer O-PET/ PE/ EVOH/ PE) seals the tray holding the
protective atmosphere until the caducity of the product. Second, the tray itself is a transparent
multilayer plastic made of PET (80%). which gives shape to the product; EVOH (3%). which
seals; and PE. which guarantees the sealing of the film. Finally, a label made of coated paper
contains information about the product, the logotype of the enterprise and quality labels.
The function of the packaging is to maintain the product in perfect conditions during 12 days. 2
of which correspond to the transportation stage and the other 10 days to the retail and use
stages. Unlike traditional packaging, this type of packaging has the particularity that almost
doubles the lifespan of the packed meat. The packaging uses the controlled atmosphere
technology for enlarging the quality conditions of the product. For this purpose, the internal air
of the packaging is eliminated and substituted by injected gases (CO
2
and O
2
) that conserve the
content beyond the normal lifespan of other refrigerated products. For an effective protective
atmosphere packaging, the material used should be as impermeable as possible to gases and
water vapors to prevent migration.
Figure 11.Initial product, volume, image and elements of the minced meat tray (Source: Arcadié)
In the qualitative assessment of the packaging (QALCC), the Materials, Use and End of Life
lifecycles stages obtained the lowest punctuation. The multilayer materials, the longer lifespan
of the packaging compared to the product and the difficulties for its end-of-life management are
the critical points. Regarding concept, attention is paid to the need of reducing the resources use
of the packaging. Processing is the most rated stage due its optimal design. On the other hand,
the quantitative assessment (LCA) highlighted that the most contributing lifecycle stages of the
minced meat tray are the Materials Extraction and transportation (89% of the Normalized
impact). The distribution of the product is the second most important stage with contributions of
25% in the energy indicator and the carbon footprint. Within the distribution, the distribution
packaging for the trays (cardboard boxes) is the main contributor. The amount of material per
functional unit is high due to the low capacity of this secondary packaging. The Product Carbon
Footprint of the initial product accounts for 178.4 g of CO
2
per product (Figure 12, Table 6).
According to the assessment results, eco-design strategies focus on the materials selection and
design (e.g., optimization of materials use in relation to the lifespan of the packaging). The
feasibility assessment and the potential compatibility of strategies resulted in a prototype design
that included 2 of the proposed improvements. The new design varies the characteristics of the
multilayer tray, while maintain the other elements in order to ensure the function of the
packaging (i.e., product production and sealing, and communication of the product). Moreover,
with this selection the company maintains the image of the product. The new tray has a new
design that gives structure to the product while reducing the materials amount. This strategy
accounts for a reduction of 15% of the plastic. Secondly, the plastic is substituted by recycled
material (Figure 12).
Figure 12. Initial product evaluation of the minced meat packaging: Qualitative and quantitative
assessment, by lifecycle stage. Eco-design product: implemented strategies and qualitative
validation (grey shows the reduce amount for each indicator). The Cumulative Energy Demand
(CED), Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) and Normalized CML impact (Norm) are assessed as
indicators (Source: Arcadié, Own elaboration).
The analyzed indicators showed that the strategies implemented account for a reduction between
8.6 and 50.9%. Main reductions are done in energy consumption as the use of recycled plastic
avoids the extraction of raw plastic from oil sources. The Product Carbon Footprint is improved
in 35.9% mainly due to the reduction of non-renewable materials use. However, other
environmental indicators obtained lower reductions than the PCF and the normalized CML
value decreases only 8.6%. Regarding design, the eco-design packaging is 12% lighter (Table
8).
Table 8. Quantitative indicators for the eco-designed minced meat packaging regarding design
(weight, volume, transport volume) and environmental improvements (CML norm, PCF and CED).
Design Environmental
Weight
[g]
Unit
volume
[m
3
]
Transport
volume
[u./truck]
CML
Norm
[Pt]
PCF
[g CO
2
eq] CED
[MJ]
Initial 20.36 - - 8.59E-13 178.4 4.50
Eco-
design 17.92 - - 7.85E-13 114.4 2.21
Variance
(%) -12 - - -8.6 -35.9 -50.9
8. Packaging for the food retail
A delicatessen product was chosen for the food retail case study. Candy Glam Rings are candy
jewelry created and sold by a specialized patisserie. The product was selected as it is a referent
of the company image.
The Rings are presented in a transparent box (like a showcase) and encapsulated in a case. The
aspect of the packaging reminds the used in jewelry and perfumery, in order to differentiate the
image of the product from other products of the company. The packaging is composed by
multiple elements and made by different materials (Figure 13). There are two main parts of the
packaging: the showcase for the ring and the external case. The ring is placed in a soft block
(PE) that fits in the transparent box (PS). This internal box is labeled (paper) and is sealed (PE).
The external case is made of cardboard and has different block pieces made of cardboard and
polyethylene (PE) in order to protect the ring showcase. The functions of the packaging are to
protect the product and to show a high-end product image.
Figure 13.Initial product, volume, image and elements of the delicatessen packaging (Source:
Escribà).
The worst punctuation of the qualitative assessment was given to the concept of the packaging
as it is not multifunctional despite its lifespan. Moreover, the materials and distribution stages
were identified as potential areas were implement strategies. Regarding material, although the
use of renewable materials is extended (Cardboard), the amount of resources is large
considering the product. Second, the transportation requirements of the product are considered
as an important contributor to the environmental impacts (Figure 14).
In the quantitative assessment, the materials extraction and processing were also identified as
the most contributing lifecycle stages (40-65%). Regarding materials, the polystyrene of the
transparent box and the polyethylene blocks of the ring are the most impacting materials.
Moreover, the processing of the cardboard (external case) has an important role due to the
presence of this material in the packaging. The Product Carbon Footprint of the product
accounts for 708 g of CO
2
and most of the emissions are produced during distribution as the
product is sold around the world and mainly by plane (Figure 14).
The eco-design product was based on the optimization of the resources use (Figure 14). First,
the most impacting elements (PE blocks) were eliminated. Second, the packaging was
dematerialized in order to reduce the weight of the product. This strategy was applied to the
external cardboard case, which was lightened. Third, attention was paid to the reduction of the
number of materials implemented in the design. In this sense, the internal blocks were changed
for a one mono-material block. Finally, the strategies aimed also to facilitate the end-of-life
management of the product. However, some strategies were rejected as the luxurious image of
the product must be maintained.
Figure 14. Initial product evaluation of the delicatessen packaging: Qualitative and quantitative
assessment, by lifecycle stage. Eco-design product: implemented strategies and qualitative
validation (grey shows the reduce amount for each indicator). The Cumulative Energy Demand
(CED), Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) and Normalized CML impact (Norm) are assessed as
indicators (Source: Own elaboration).
From the design perspective, the unit volume was optimized and reduced by 11.4% although the
weight of the product was only reduced by 0.51%. However, considering the small weight and
volume of the packed product, the design could be more optimized. Regarding the
environmental burdens, the global impact (CML) is reduced 1.1% while the energy
consumption is increased by 1.3%, as the use of cardboard is also accounted as renewable
energy. The Product Carbon Footprint is the indicator with highest reductions due to the
optimization of the volume for transportation (Table 9).
Table 9. Quantitative indicators for the eco-designed delicatessen packaging regarding design
(weight, volume, transport volume) and environmental improvements (CML norm, PCF and CED).
Design Environmental
Weight
[g]
Unit
volume
[m
3
]
Transport
volume
[u./truck]
CML
Norm
[Pt]
PCF
[g CO
2
eq] CED
[MJ]
Initial 118.67 1271.9 - 4.31E-13 709.46 16.28
Eco-
design 118.06 1126.5 - 4.26E-13 699.37 16.50
Variance
(%) -0.51 -11.42 - -1.1 -1.4 +1.3
9. Conclusions
The eco-design implementation in different packaging products resulted in a better
environmental performance of the packaging. Regarding the design parameters, most of the case
studies reduced the weight of the product and the volume. When quantifying the transport
volume, this was increased significantly. These indicators implied a decrease regarding the
transport requirements. Secondly, all of the case studies resulted in a reduced Product Carbon
Footprint (from 1.4 to 35.9% of reduction), reduced environmental impact (CML norm, from
1.1 to 63.5%) and reduced energy consumption (from 1.6 to 58.9%, apart from food retail case
study) (Table 10).
Among the sectors analyzed, the size and weight of the packaging determine the absolute values
of the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF). Packaging systems for larger products obtained the
greatest values: industrial packaging (16 kg CO
2
eq.) and the technical packaging (4.6 kg CO
2
eq.). However, both packaging has a longer lifespan related to the other case studies analyzed.
First, the industrial packaging is a multipurpose packaging that can be re-used in different areas
of the company. Second, the technical packaging is designed not only for distribution but also
for storage. However, the PCF of the single-use packaging cases primarily depends on the
design and the materials used. The food retail packaging got the highest PCF value (709 g CO
2
eq.) although containing the smallest product (a candy ring). The design of the box is
presumptuous in order to show a high-end product image and to make it similar to real jewelry.
Therefore, a higher amount and variety of materials are used than the real needs for protection
purposes.
In relative values (PCF per mass unit), food packaging accounted for the largest Product Carbon
Footprint (PCF) results. First, the meat tray’s PCF was of 8.8 g CO
2
eq. per gram of packaging
due to mainly the technical materials of the multilayer for food preservation. Second, the PCF of
the food retail packaging resulted in 6.0 g CO
2
eq. per gram of packaging because again of the
luxurious design and the use of different materials. Regarding the other sectors, differences
depend on the type of material used in the packaging. The chemical packaging analyzed is made
of thermoplasts and obtained a PCF per gram of packaging of 4 g CO
2
eq., while the technical
packaging combined both plastic and renewable materials and had a PCF of 2.0 g CO
2
eq. per
gram of packaging. Finally, the PCF of the industrial packaging resulted in the lowest value per
gram of packaging (0.6 g CO
2
eq.) as most of the materials are from renewable sources
(cardboard and wood).
Regarding the affectation of the eco-design process, the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) is
mainly reduced due to the optimization of the volume and therefore the improvement in
transportation requirements, as the GHG emissions of transportation are the most contributing
ones. The PCF is also largely improved when changing from plastic or non-renewable materials
(e.g., high density polyethylene, HDPE) to renewable ones (e.g., cardboard or wood), as the fuel
consumption is reduced. Lastly, the optimization of the end-of-life management of packaging
products also reduced significantly the PCF due to the emissions in landfilling.
Table 10.Improvement indicators [Variance, %] for the eco-designed products regarding design
(weight, volume, transport volume) and environmental improvements (CML norm, PCF and CED).
Design Environmental
Variance
[%] Weight Unit
volume Transport
volume CML
Norm PCF CED
Industrial -34.65 - - -63.5 -7.2 -58.9
Chemical 0 -20 +25 -3.1 -3.1 -1.6
Technical -4 -36 - -42.3 -35.3 -52.8
Food
product -12 - - -8.6 -35.9 -50.9
Food retail -0.51 -11.42 - -1.1 -1.4 +1.3
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Embamat, KH Lloreda, Lamp, Arcadié and Escribà enterprises
for their participation in the eco-design project and for supplying data, the Catalan Government
for financing the Catalan Ecodesign program and the Spanish Ministerio de Educación for
awarding research scholarships to Esther Sanyé Mengual (AP2010-4044).
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Abstract Purpose The year-round supply of fresh fruit and vegetables in Europe requires a complex logistics system. In this study, the most common European fruit and vegetable transport packaging systems; namely single-use wooden and cardboard boxes and multi -use re-useable plastic crates; are analyzed and compared considering environmental, economic and social impacts. Methods The environmental, economic and social potentials of the three transport packaging systems are examined and compared from a life cycle perspective using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Life Cycle Working Environment (LCWE) methodologies. Relevant parameters influencing the results are analyzed in different scenarios and their impacts are quantified. The underlying environmental analysis is an ISO 14040 and 14044 comparative Life Cycle Assessment that was critically reviewed by an independent expert panel. Results and discussion The results show that wooden boxes and plastic crates perform very similarly in the GWP, AP and POCP categories; while plastic crates have a lower impact in the EP and ADP categories. Cardboard boxes show the highest impacts in all assessed categories. The analysis of the life cycle costs show that the re-usable plastic system is the most cost-effective over its entire life cycle. For the production of a single crate, the plastic crates require the most human labor. The share of female employment for the cardboard boxes is the lowest. All three systems require a relatively large share of low-qualified employees. The plastic crate system shows a much lower lethal accident rate. The higher rate for the wooden and cardboard boxes arises mainly from wood logging. In addition, the sustainability consequences due to the influence of packaging in preventing food losses are discussed and future research combining aspects both from food LCAs and transport packing/packaging LCAs is recommended. Conclusions For all three systems, optimization potentials regarding their environmental life cycle performance were identified. Wooden boxes (single-use system) and plastics crates (re-usable system) show preferable environmental performance. The calibration of the system parameters, such as end-of-life treatment, showed environmental optimization potentials in all transport packaging systems. The assessment of the economic and the social dimensions in parallel is important in order to avoid trade-offs between the three sustainability dimensions. Merging economic and social aspects into a Life Cycle Assessment is becoming more and more important and their integration into one model ensures a consistent modeling approach for a manageable effort.
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