A recently updated and extended study by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (ifeu), commissioned by Flexible Packaging Europe (FPE), has underlined the original study’s findings. It shows clearly that flexible packaging is a more effective route to resource efficiency and reducing carbon footprint than using rigid packaging formats or focusing entirely on recycling.
The study uses a scenario in which all non-flexible packaging (i. e. rigid packaging) for Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) are substituted by flexible packaging wherever possible. As carbonated drinks cannot be packed this way, for the purpose of the study, theoretical substitution excluded all beverages (as a conservative approach).
It showed that, by substituting all rigid packaging of non-beverage FMCG at the EU level, the amount of primary packaging waste could be reduced by 21 million tonnes per year. This means a 70 per cent reduction of the total amount of non-beverage FMCG primary packaging in the EU, highlighting the huge packaging waste prevention potential of flexible packaging. Even more striking are the consequences on the environment. By using a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach the study shows that such a theoretical substitution would decrease total Global Warming Potential (GWP) of all European non-beverage FMCG primary packaging by 33 per cent, even if it is assumed, for the purpose of the demonstration, that no material recycling processes for flexible packaging would take place.
The opposite scenario – the substitution in the EU of all flexible packaging used for non-beverage FMCG by rigid packaging formats – would increase total GWP of the primary packaging to about 30 per cent, the study shows. This is despite the much higher actual recycling rates of rigid packaging. Indeed, even if the recycling rate of rigid packaging was raised to 100 per cent, this theoretical substitution would still lead to 14 per cent higher GWP, it says.
Further information about the study results can be found here: https://www.flexpack-europe.org/files/FPE/pressreleases/2020/FPE_ifeu_study_update_2020_GB.pdf
A corresponding, illustrative infographic can be downloaded here: https://www.flexpack-europe.org/files/FPE/pressreleases/2020/FPE-ifeu_study_update_infographics.jpg