The Sustainability of Packaging Systems for Fruit and Vegetable Transport in Europe based on Life-Cycle-Analysis

Posted by Kiyoko Terahata
Contact: 
Kiyoko TERAHATA
Type: 
Full LCA available on the web
Comparative: 
yes
Publication year: 
2007
Language: 
English
Code: 
Package/Container (not paper specific)
Product: 
Packaging boxes and crates
Quality and sources
Is the study a: 
Detailed LCA
Is the study compliant with ISO 14044?: 
Yes
Sponsor name(s): 
Stiftung Initiative Mehrweg
Sponsor type: 
Public administration
Practitioner(s): 
Leif Barthe
Practitioner(s): 
Stefan Albrech
Practitioner(s) type: 
Company
Summary
Functional unit: 
Distribution of 1.000 tons of fruit/vegetables either transported in wooden boxes, cardboard boxes (both one-way systems) or in plastic crates (multi way system)
Goal and scope of the summary: 
To analyse the environmental impacts of the production, utilisation and "end of life” of three packaging systems (wooden boxes, cardboard boxes and plastic crates).
Before products reach the point of sale, they have already passed through several processes. Suitable packaging is required for various stages along the process chain, at harvest, during storage and during final transportation of products. Fresh fruit and vegetables, for example, have to arrive in excellent shape regardless of where they are coming from. Sales depend on the speed and safety of the transport channel. 

To meet this requirement, several packaging systems, as well as different logistics solutions for product-specific transportation have been established over the years. For packaging fruit or vegetables, wooden boxes, cardboard boxes and plastic crates are most commonly used. While the first two are non-returnable packaging systems and normally disposed of or partly recycled after one use, plastic crates as a rule are returnable packaging, washed and reused many times. 

To give this study a rather general scope the most relevant packaging options (wood, cardboard, plastic) of representative and relevant transport goods (fruit and vegetables) in an overall European transport situation, covering the most relevant producer and consumer countries. 
In this study a different approach compared to the “one-point study”, which consider fixed sets of boundary conditions and situations, is desired. A representative base case is chosen, relevant parameters influencing environmental impacts in the life cycle are identified, varied and then quantitative changes on the result are discussed. 

Goal of the Study 

To analysis of the environmental impacts of the production, utilisation and “end of life” of three packaging systems (wooden boxes, cardboard boxes and plastic crates). This includes the individual distribution systems such as one-way or multiway for the transport of fruit and vegetables in Europe. Primary goal of the comparison is the identification of the relevance of the individual optimisation potentials. Therefore in the conclusions special attention is given to the life cycle related optimisation potentials of the different options and additional technical aspects influencing the application.  

Conclusions 

Environment: Influence of the different life cycle phases 

- For wooden boxes the main life cycle phase in terms of emitted substances is the production phase (forest, timber, crate production, transports during production) for the impacts eutrophication, ozone depletion, summer smog and acidification.

- For cardboard boxes the main life cycle phase in terms of emitted substances is the production (forest, log wood, pulp and paper production, cardboard box transports during production) for all impacts. This is due to the fact that cardboard boxes are also a one-way system. For global warming, the end-of-life phase plays a certain role due to the incineration of the main share of the cardboard.

- For plastic crates the main life cycle phase in terms of emitted substances is the service life regarding eutrophication, global warming and acidification. The service life is important due to the fact that plastic crates are a multi-way system. 

Environment: conservative and technical scenario 

- Global warming potential:  The advantage of plastic crates over cardboard boxes increases. Wooden boxes gain high global warming credits for incorporated CO2 during growth of trees and due to the recovery of energy in end-of-life incineration. Cardboard boxes gain less global warming credits for incorporated CO2 during growth of renewables than do wooden boxes.

- Ozone depletion: The wooden boxes perform best both in the conservative and in the technical scenario. Emissions leading to ozone depletion contribute the least to European annual average. 

- Summer smog: Wooden boxes and plastic crates show comparable results in the conservative as well as in the technical scenario for summer smog with a slight advantage for the plastic crates, which increases in the  technical scenario. Cardboard boxes have double the impact. 

- Acidification: Wooden boxes and plastic crates show comparable results in the conservative scenario for acidification potential with an advantage for the plastic crates, increasing in the technical scenario. Cardboard boxes have a higher impact by a factor of 2 to 3 times.

- Eutrophication: For eutrophication plastic crates perform best in both scenarios with wooden boxes second and cardboard third.

- Primary energy demand: Plastic crates having less energy consumption by a factor of 4 compared to cardboard boxes in the conservative scenario. Most of the energy demand for the wooden boxes is covered by renewable resources (85 %). Cardboard boxes cover 56 % of their energy demand with renewable resources. The plastic crates cover only a small share using renewable resources.

Costs 

- For wooden boxes and cardboard boxes the highest share of costs occur in the production phase, while for plastic crates the service life is the main cost driver. In the case of wooden boxes, end of life cost occur because of disposal costs for wood. 

- Due to their residual monetary value at the end of life, plastic crates and cardboard boxes receive a credit advice. 

- In the case of plastic crates, during service life, the costs for the transportation tasks and the washing/sanitation processes are almost the same within the scenarios. 

- In relation to the doubling of the transportation task from about 3,3 mio crates (conservative scenario) to about 6,6 mio crates, in the case of wooden boxes and cardboard boxes the difference in costs between the two scenarios is simply a doubling effect. The plastic crates show a lower increase of costs (87 %) when the transportation task is doubled from the conservative scenario to the technical 
scenario. Hence the lifetime of plastic crates should be as long as possible. 

Raw material impact level: 
Medium
Manufacturing impact level: 
Medium
Shipping impact level: 
Medium
Usage impact level: 
Medium
End of life impact level: 
Medium
Tags:


Who's new

  • lossweightolive6
  • felicaadcock8874
  • qdremilie08434002
  • vitolarge66851092
  • sheritap9253534