A pan-European study has found that carton packs for UHT milk use 57% less fossil resources than bottles.
Packaging systems specialists SIG Combibloc commissioned the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) to carry out the life-cycle assessment of 1,000ml carton packs and HDPE and PET bottles at its Heidelberg facility to determine the ecological differences between products.
The study, run across 27 EU countries, revealed that, from extraction through to distribution and recycling, PET bottles used 57% more non-renewable fossil fuels, emitted 45% more carbon dioxide and consumed 36% more primary energy than carton packs for the UHT milk market.
The research, in accordance with environmental accreditation ISO Standards 1404ff, highlighted that carton packs were formed of 75% pulp fibres obtained from wood, a carbon-neutral, renewable energy resource. Carton packs’ low weight meant that fuel emissions during transport were lower and the use of raw paperboard in the products utilises renewable energy.
SIG Combibloc head of group environment Michael Hecker said: "In Europe, alongside carton packs the prevalent packaging solutions include HDPE and PET multilayer bottles as 1,000ml packaging.
"The results of the current life-cycle assessment show that the carton pack’s composite structure has clear advantages over other packaging solutions for UHT milk."
As a result of the findings, the IFEU has recommended carton packs as packaging solutions to consumers and businesses when environmental impact is a factor.
Hecker added: "But that doesn’t mean that we can rest on our laurels – in fact, we are working continuously to further improve the environmental performance of our carton packs for UHT milk.
"We are looking into further increasing the fraction of sustainable, renewable raw material used so that carton packs can continue to be the most environmentally friendly packaging solution around."
SIG Combibloc, a worldwide supplier of packaging materials and filling machines, commissioned the IFEU to conduct life-cycle assessments on food packaging in 2009 and non-carbon soft drinks in 2011, which found that carton packs also offered environmental advantages over glass bottles and metal cans.