Life cycle assessments of packaging
For more than 20 years, bifa has produced life cycle analyses and assessments for products, processes and systems in all kinds of different areas of the economy. Life cycle assessments are characterised by the fact that they cover environmental effects from cradle to grave, i.e. through all stages of the life cycle (starting materials, processing, transport, disposal).
Life cycle assessments for packaging systems in particular were and are the subject of a large number of such analyses. For example, bifa evaluated the environmental effect of various standard packaging materials in classic food packaging or the use of renewable raw materials for the production of plastic and paper packaging.
From this work, several fundamental findings can be deduced for the life cycle assessment of packaging. As a rule, production of the necessary original packaging materials has the greatest influence by far on the overall ecological balance. This contribution is determined by two factors. On the one hand, the material-specific ecological backpack of the respective packaging material and on the other the specific quantity or weight of packaging material required for the packaging. This means, a reduction in the weight of the packaging materials required reduces, almost directly proportionally,
the environmental burden of the packaging.
In addition, recycling of the used packaging at the end of its life has a significant influence on the life cycle assessment. Incineration of packaging would increase its environmental burden significantly. On the other hand, recycling the material reduces the environmental burden of the packaging, as secondary material is produced, which makes the primary material superfluous in the next life cycle.
Analysis of a life cycle assessment on the basis of the contribution to climate change or carbon footprint, often the only aspect discussed nowadays, can lead to wrong conclusions in the evaluation of bio-based plastics at the latest. bifa therefore recommends that a comprehensive appraisal of the effects is always carried out on the basis of different effect indicators.
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