Carton packs for UHT milk have better environmental profile over disposable HDPE and PET bottles in terms of carbon dioxide emission, fossil resource usage and primary energy consumption, according to Europe-wide life-cycle assessment conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU).

According to the study, for a one liter package, carton packs generate 34% less carbon dioxide, use 56% less fossil resources and consume 30% less primary energy compared to disposable PET bottles, whose figures are 45% for carbon dioxide, 57% for fossil resources and 36% for primary energy.

SIG Combibloc health and safety group environment head Michael Hecker said they commissioned the IFEU to carry out a comparative, Europe-wide life-cycle assessment studying the environmental impacts of the packaging systems, in accordance with the ISO Standards 14040ff for life-cycle assessments.

IFEU conducted the assessment right from the extraction and refining of the raw material used for packaging, through the processes of manufacturing and transporting the finished packages, the packaging of the beverage and distribution, recycling and disposal of the packaging after use.

At every stage of the product life-cycle, IFEU investigated and evaluated the key environmental impact categories relevant to the resource and the emission-related categories.

The study revealed that raw materials and its quantity used in the making of the packaging were the driving force behind difference in environmental impacts produced by UHT milk packaging, where carton packs stood ahead from the rest.

Moreover, usage of raw paperboard and 75% pulp fibers obtained from wood, a renewable source, to make carton packs and the low weight of carton packs made it environmental friendly.

Hecker added the results of the current life-cycle assessment show them that when it comes to environmental life-cycle assessments, the carton pack in its current composite structure has clear advantages over other packaging solutions for UHT milk.

"In its guidance documents the institute that carried out the study is recommending the carton pack to business and consumers as a packaging solution whenever environmental considerations are a factor in decision-making," Hecker added.

Image: SIG Combibloc is a major supplier of carton packaging and filling machines with a turnover of EUR1,450m in 2011. Photo: SIG Combibloc