A new Flexible Packaging Assn. report provides a holistic view on the sustainability benefits that flexible packaging offers and provides foresight into future sustainability implications for flexible packaging.
The FPA commissioned PTIS LLC to, in part, develop six LCA case studies comparing flexible packaging to other packaging formats across a range of products.
For the report, six different LCA case studies were developed using the EcoImpact-COMPASS® LCA software, which allows for rapid life-cycle comparisons between different package formats. The case studies include packaging for baby food, cat litter, ground coffee, laundry detergent pods, motor oil, and single-serve juice-flavored beverages. The results from the case studies show that flexible packaging has more preferable environmental attributes for carbon impact, fossil fuel usage, water usage, product-to-package ratio, as well as material to landfill, when compared to other package formats.
According to the report, flexible packaging offers a number of sustainability benefits throughout the entire life cycle of the package, when compared to other package formats. These include material/resource efficiency; lightweight/source reduction; transportation benefits due to inbound format and lightweight nature; shelf life extension; reduced materials to landfill; high product-to-package ratio; and beneficial life cycle metrics.
The industry is responding to these challenges with new initiatives to improve the sustainability profile of flexible packaging. Among them are technologies to drive recycling and collection and auto-sortation at scale of flexible materials; investigate new materials (compostable or bio-based structures); and enhance processing technologies that extend and increase consumer participation.
There are several industry collaborations that are working to identify technologies to make collection and sortation of flexible -ackaging waste feasible and economically effective, as well as research into chemical recycling, which degrades the mixed plastics into monomers or basic chemicals to turn into new products. Other programs such as waste-to-energy (WTE), which use the combustible energy from difficult to recycle plastics are widely used in Europe and Asia, and may provide additional recovery processes in the US.
The report is publicly available and can be downloaded by clicking here.