Life cycle analysis: Paper packaging more sustainable than reusable ones!

When you are looking for sustainable packaging, it is sometimes difficult to determine what to look out for. Which factors determine the sustainability of packaging? For example, is it the material from which the packaging is made or the possibility to recycle the packaging after use? Determining the sustainability of packaging requires considering the entire life cycle. Although many people think that reusable packaging is the best choice for the environment, research has shown that in many cases this is actually paper packaging. In this article we explain what a life cycle analysis is and why the findings of the study are important for (catering) companies that strive for more sustainable choices.

Papieren verpakkingen beter voor het milieu dan herbruikbare verpakkingen

What is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

A life cycle assessment is a method of measuring the environmental impact of a packaging or other product throughout its life cycle. From raw material extraction and production to use, maintenance and waste processing.

The LCA specialists collect and analyze data from each phase. In the case of packaging, raw materials are extracted and processed into suitable materials. The packages are then produced and distributed to their final destination or intermediate station. During use, the best application of the material must be taken into account to minimize the impact on the environment. Finally, the end-of-life destination of the packaging is analyzed, looking at whether it will be recycled, incinerated or landfilled. By mapping the environmental impact, a way to improve the life cycle can be looked at and thus reduce the impact on the environment.

The life cycle analysis of single-use and reusable packaging

At the request of the European Paper Packaging Alliance (EPPA), a thorough life cycle assessment has been carried out in 2021 to measure the overall environmental impact of disposable paper packaging and reusable takeaway packaging. This was done based on an average fast food restaurant in Europe, during 365 days. The LCA shows that recyclable paper packaging material is better for the environment than reusable packaging. This applies to no less than 12 different aspects, including climate change, freshwater consumption and depletion of natural resources.

If we were to switch completely to reusable alternatives, which the European Union is aiming for, this would actually cause more CO2 emissions, more fresh water consumption and would demand more natural resources. EPPA indicates that returning reusable food and drink packaging to restaurants (after use) and washing and drying it also uses more energy and water.

Disposable paper packaging is biodegradable and can be recycled, which reduces the amount of waste and new raw materials required for production. For these reasons, paper disposables are a better option for catering establishments that want to make a sustainable choice.

You can buy sustainable packaging at TakeAware

Are you looking for packaging for snacks, meals or drinks? At TakeAware, we go beyond just packaging material. We offer sustainable alternatives to disposable items, mainly made from plant-based materials. Our products contribute to a circular economy in which waste is given a second life and converted into packaging. In our range you will find both paper disposables and reusable products. Take a look at our extensive range and find the products that best suit your company!