LCA Case Studies

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. 

FPA published a brochure, Sustain the World: the Case for Flexible Packaging, which presents all six LCA case studies in abbreviated form, each of which evaluates common packaging formats for their environmental impacts with a cradle-to-grave boundary. The products used in the case studies span multiple market segments, including coffee, motor oil, baby food, laundry detergent, cat litter, and juice. Click here to download the brochure.

Coffee Package Comparison


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.


Motor Oil Package Comparison


Motor oil has traditionally been packaged in rigid HDPE bottles, but recently, there have been examples of motor oil being packaged in flexible stand-up pouches with fitments. For this Life Cycle Assessment study, flexible stand-up pouches with fitments and rigid HDPE bottle formats were evaluated for their environmental impacts with a cradle-to-grave boundary.

When the rigid HDPE bottle and flexible stand-up pouch with fitment are used for motor oil packaging, the flexible structure has an overall favorable outcome in terms of fossil fuel usage, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and materials landfilled. This is largely driven by the flexible stand-up pouch using about 1/3 of the material used in the rigid HDPE bottle, which results in less energy used in manufacturing and transporting of the package materials, and a reduction in associated environmental impacts.

Click here to view the full case study.


Baby Food Package Comparison


Baby food packaging has evolved over the past decade from glass jars to plastic thermoformed tubs and flexible stand-up pouches with fitments. The flexible stand-up pouch’s rise in popularity can be traced to several attributes: it is easy to use, less messy, shatterproof, and a boon to parents as toddlers can access the contents themselves without the use of utensils.

The glass jar has significantly larger sustainability impacts than the other two packaging options, even considering the recyclability of glass. While the flexible stand-up pouch with fitment and the thermoformed tub have fairly similar profiles for fossil fuel usage and greenhouse gas impacts, as well as high product-to-package ratios, the flexible stand-up pouch with fitment results in less material to municipal solid waste.

Click here to view the full case study.


Laundry Detergent Pod Packaging Comparison


The use of single-dose pods has become a popular method for packaging laundry detergent, replacing liquid or powdered detergent with pre-measured packets. For this Life Cycle Assessment study, two common packaging formats for pods were evaluated for their holistic environmental impact: a flexible stand-up pouch with a zipper and a rigid PET container.

The results of the laundry pod case study show that the flexible stand-up pouch has a number of sustainability benefits (fossil fuel usage, carbon impact, water consumption, and municipal solid waste) over the rigid PET container, even when taking the current recycling rate of the rigid PET container into consideration.

Click here to view the full case study.


Cat Litter Package Comparison


Cat litter is a necessity for all cat owners and is a heavy, moisture-sensitive product that requires a strong package with a moisture barrier. Three common packaging formats for cat litter were evaluated for this Life Cycle Assessment
study: a flexible stand-up bag, a paperboard barrier carton and a rigid plastic pail with handle. All formats meet the criteria for strength and moisture protection.

The results of the data when comparing different cat litter packaging options shows that the flexible stand-up bag has a number of significant benefits (fossil fuel usage, carbon impact, water consumption, and municipal solid waste) over the rigid pail and barrier carton, even when taking the current recycling rate of the rigid pail into consideration.

Click here to view the full case study.


Single Serve Juice Flavored Beverage Package Comparison


Beverages are sold in a wide variety of packaging formats based on their volume, content, usage, and audience, among many other considerations. Beverages are also heavy, requiring a package format that is robust enough to contain the volume without breaking during transport or usage. For this Life Cycle Assessment the following popular beverage formats were evaluated: a flexible drink pouch and a glass bottle, which many incorrectly assume to be more sustainable.

The results of the data comparing the different juice packaging formats show that the flexible drink pouch has a number of significant benefits (fossil fuel usage, carbon impact, and water consumption) over the glass bottle, a format thought by many consumers to be more sustainable. The flexible drink pouch also results in much less municipal solid waste than the glass bottle.

Click here to view the full case study.



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