The European packaging market is forecast to grow 1.9% annually in the next years, with an increasing use of returnable packages. In this context, it is important to assess the real environmental effectiveness of the packaging re-use practice in terms of environmental impacts. This life cycle assessment aims to evaluate the environmental performances of reusable plastic crates (RPCs), which are used for the distribution of 36% of fruit and vegetables in Italy. RPCs can be re-used several times after a reconditioning process, i.e., inspection, washing, and sanitization with hot water and chemicals. The analysis was performed considering 12 impact categories, as well as the cumulative energy demand indicator and a tailor-made water consumption indicator. The results show that when the RPCs are used for less than 20 deliveries, the impacts of the life cycle are dominated by the manufacturing stage. By increasing the number of deliveries, the contribution of the reconditioning process increases, reaching 30-70% of the overall impacts for 125 uses. A minimum of three deliveries of the RPCs is required in order to perform better than an alternative system where crates of the same capacity (but 60% lighter) are single-use. The same modeling approach can be used to evaluate the environmental sustainability of other types of returnable packages, in order to have a complete overview for the Italian context and other European countries.

Life cycle assessment of reusable plastic crates (RPCs)

Tua C.;Biganzoli L.;Grosso M.;Rigamonti L.
2019

Abstract

The European packaging market is forecast to grow 1.9% annually in the next years, with an increasing use of returnable packages. In this context, it is important to assess the real environmental effectiveness of the packaging re-use practice in terms of environmental impacts. This life cycle assessment aims to evaluate the environmental performances of reusable plastic crates (RPCs), which are used for the distribution of 36% of fruit and vegetables in Italy. RPCs can be re-used several times after a reconditioning process, i.e., inspection, washing, and sanitization with hot water and chemicals. The analysis was performed considering 12 impact categories, as well as the cumulative energy demand indicator and a tailor-made water consumption indicator. The results show that when the RPCs are used for less than 20 deliveries, the impacts of the life cycle are dominated by the manufacturing stage. By increasing the number of deliveries, the contribution of the reconditioning process increases, reaching 30-70% of the overall impacts for 125 uses. A minimum of three deliveries of the RPCs is required in order to perform better than an alternative system where crates of the same capacity (but 60% lighter) are single-use. The same modeling approach can be used to evaluate the environmental sustainability of other types of returnable packages, in order to have a complete overview for the Italian context and other European countries.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11311/1120230
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