Flexible packaging offers a number of sustainability benefits throughout the entire life cycle of the package when compared to other package formats including: 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.
These benefits are detailed in the FPA's recent report on sustainable packaging, A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World. FPA commissioned PTIS, LLC to provide a holistic view on the sustainability benefits that flexible packaging offers; provide foresight into future sustainability implications for flexible packaging; and develop six Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) case studies comparing flexible packaging to other packaging formats across a range of products. An LCA is a method for characterizing impacts associated with the sourcing, manufacturing, distributing, using and disposing of a product or product system.
For the report, six different LCA case studies were developed using the EcoImpact-COMPASS® LCA software, which allows for quick 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.
Coffee Stand-Up Flexible Pouches
Ground coffee is a popular beverage and is packaged in a variety of formats. For the LCA study, the popular package formats that were evaluated include: a stand-up flexible pouch – 340g (12.0 oz.); a steel can – 226.8g (8.0 oz.); and a plastic canister – 306g (10.8 oz.).
When considering the different coffee format structures from a carbon impact, water consumption, and material disposal position, the stand-up flexible pouch results in a more favorable environmental outcome than the other package formats by a wide margin. This is largely due to the reduced amount of material being used, as well as the favorable product-to-package ratio that the stand-up flexible pouch format provides.
Click here to view the full case study.