container industry releases comprehensive cradle-to-cradle LCA
The North American glass container industry
has taken a pioneering step in producing the first complete and
thorough cradle-to-cradle life cycle assessment (LCA) ever conducted
for the industry.
The LCA, coordinated by the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI),
reaffirms the benefits of glass container recycling for the environment.
The use of recycled glass (cullet) in manufacturing results in
a decrease in primary energy demand and reduces carbon emissions.
A “cradle-to-cradle” LCA includes the entire cradle-to-grave
life cycle of a product while factoring in the recycling of the
used product back to its original purpose.
“The LCA confirms the industry is on the right track with the
goal to use 50 percent recycled glass in the manufacture of new
glass bottles and jars by the end of 2013,” said Joseph Cattaneo,
president of the Glass Packaging Institute.
While other industries claim that the transportation of glass
bottles has more of an environmental impact because of the weight
of the containers, a key finding of the LCA dismisses this claim.
The transportation of raw materials and cullet used in glass
production represents less than four to five percent of the total
energy used in the production of container glass.
While each glass container has its own carbon profile, on average,
existing recycle rates offset the CO2 burden when shipping foods
and beverages across America. The 50 percent content rate will
only serve to further reduce carbon emissions. Therefore, when
examining the entire life cycle of a packaging material, one
must also consider the environmental impact of raw material extraction,
production, transportation and end use treatment. The conclusion:
When looked at it in its entirety, the environmental benefits
stemming from the recycling of glass containers more than offset
any increased impact generated by slightly heavier containers.
Glass containers are endlessly recyclable, made from all-natural
ingredients (sand, soda ash, limestone, and recycled glass),
and glass is the only packaging material accepted by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as “GRAS” or “generally recognized
as safe” for food and beverage contact.
A leading sustainability consulting firm, PE Americas, conducted
the study examining each step from raw material extraction to
end-use. The closed-looped cradle-to-cradle LCA collected data
from 105 furnaces representing 75 percent of North American glass
LCA participating companies in North America include Gallo Glass;
Leone Industries; Owens-Illinois, Inc.; Saint-Gobain Containers,
Inc.; and Vitro Packaging, LLC. The study was conducted in parallel
with a study for the European Container Glass Federation and
its member companies. The methods employed in developing the
life cycle impacts are comparable between the two studies, and
life cycle assessment and glass experts conducted both studies
according to strict ISO 14040/44 guidelines. Both studies also
underwent a rigorous critical independent peer review.