We all want a cleaner environment but sometimes our assumptions on what is less harmful are wrong. So there’s a benefit in re-thinking how to be green.
According to the recently published comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study, paper-based single-use products provide significant key environmental advantages when compared to reusable tableware for in-store dining in Quick Service Restaurants (QSR). These advantages are primarily driven by the carbon emissions related to the amount of energy required to wash the tableware as well as the amount of freshwater used in the washing process in a multi-use system.
A recent study conducted by Ramboll, a leading global engineering, design and consultancy company and certified by TÜV, one of the world’s leading testing service providers, compares the environmental impact of paper-based single-use packaging to that of reusable tableware in an in-store dining setting in Quick Service Restaurants in Europe. The full environmental impact was scientifically measured for both applications across multiple criteria and scenarios. Importantly, the results showed that:
- For climate change, the single-use system shows very significant benefits. In fact, in the baseline scenario, the polypropylene-based multi-use system was responsible for generating 2.7 times more CO2-e emissions than the paper-based single-use system. The single main contributor to climate change impact in the multi-use baseline scenario is the electricity demand of the washing process. Overall, the use phase accounts for 83% of the total aggregated impact.
- For Freshwater Consumption, there are also very significant environmental benefits to the single-use system. The multi-use system used 3.6 times the amount of freshwater in the baseline scenario.
“The environmental impact of energy and water required for washing in a multi-use system demonstrates that reusable packaging is not the solution for the foodservice industry. Particularly from a climate change perspective paper-based single-use packaging results in a lower environmental impact. Ramboll’s LCA provides scientific evidence which policymakers must welcome as they aim to develop regulation that is good for the planet and has no unintended consequences,“ says Charles Héaulmé, President and CEO of Huhtamaki.
“Climate impact and freshwater consumption are considered the two most critical environmental impact categories today. Due to the urgency of mitigating climate change we believe there is a need to have a fact-based understanding on which activities contribute to climate impact and how they can be minimized effectively and immediately. Water stress is also an issue of growing global importance, with an increasing number of geographies facing freshwater supply issues today. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that policy decisions adopted today take into account both carbon emissions and freshwater consumption, and that all industries and sectors review how they can mitigate their impact. For example, at Huhtamaki we are actively working to minimize our carbon footprint, setting a Science Based Target, and we are currently assessing water management plans across all our operations,” adds Thomasine Kamerling, Executive Vice President Sustainability and Communications.
Charles Héaulmé continues: “We recognize that there are still gaps in the circularity of packaging that need to be addressed. At Huhtamaki, we continue to work pro-actively on developing sustainable packaging solutions in line with our 2030 Strategy. We believe that investments in waste management infrastructure are needed to further increase the recycling rates of paper-based packaging, which will further reduce their climate impact. We must also find ways to address anti-social littering, potentially via incentivization mechanisms, to support positive consumer behavior.”
In addition to climate impact and freshwater consumption, the LCA study measured environmental impact in the following categories: fossil depletion, particle pollution, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication, ionizing radiation, metal depletion and stratospheric ozone depletion. Further categories where single-use packaging provided environmental advantages compared to a multi-use system were fossil depletion, particle pollution and terrestrial acidification. A summary of the Life Cycle Assessment is available from EPPA at www.eppa-eu.org