Assessing the environmental impact of polystyrene, paperboard and polypropylene food packaging articles used in retail for fast food applications using product life cycle assessment methods

Fairbanks, Ronald (2008-12)

Thesis (MBA (Business Management))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Over the last few years consumers have become more environmentally focused and have transferred this pressure upwards through the supply chain to retailers and manufacturers in turn. One of the areas under scrutiny is food packaging, as this does not form part of the product being consumed or used. Packaging's primary function is to protect the contents from the time of manufacture until it is used and the environmental footprint of packaging is only a small portion of the overall food chains'. In a study conducted by Oki and Sasaki (2000) they concluded that, a shortage of packaging materials in nations with inadequate social infrastructures causes extremely heavy losses of foodstuffs. In developed countries foodstuff waste is close to 1 %, whereas in less developed countries the waste can be as high as 50% to 75%. Functional packaging contributes to minimising this waste. Packaging media are often chosen for their ability to satisfy the product's requirements, but different materials are perceived by the public to be more or Jess environmentally friendly, independent of the functional requirements. The products with the better environmental reputation are generally those that are recycled and where companies have promoted the recycling efforts. However the perception does not necessarily reflect the actual environmental impact of the product type. In many instances, when one considers all of the energy costs and pollution effects associated with a particular product's manufacture and recycling, it can have a harsher impact than a single-use product that is disposed of after use. The long term business success of companies in the packaging industry will be linked to consumer preferences for functionally suitable, environmentally friendly packaging. To determine a product's environmental effect, a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is often used. LCA is a quantitative procedure to assess the environmental burdens associated with the life cycle of a product, process or service. The complete life cycle of a product includes the extraction of raw materials (including water), processing, transportation, manufacturing, distribution, the use and reuse of materials, maintenance, recycling and waste disposal. (Brent, A.C.: 2003, 115). In this report LCI's were compiled for three South African product categories, selected on the basis of volume used in the consumer market and suitable comparison products being available. Having completed the LCI based on realistic packaging products and production methods, the results per category can be presented. For a functional unit comparison of two cup types, a volume of 1000 litres was used. The results show that per functional unit, expanded polystyrene cups use 27% less energy, but produce 32% more C02 emissions than paper cups. The paper cups however use 51% more water. Neither product shows a significant overall environmental benefit over the other. For a functional unit comparison of two burger boxes, a functional number of 10 000 boxes was used. The results show that per functional unit the carton board boxes use 89% more energy, produce 268% more CO2 emissions and use 239% more water. Overall, the polystyrene burger box has a lower environmental impact. For a functional unit comparison of two protein packaging trays, a functional number of 10 000 trays was used. The results show that per unit, polypropylene trays use 94% more energy, produce 197% more C02 emissions, but only use 76% of the water compared to a foamed polystyrene tray. The LCI study has produced suitable data to provide a summary where aspects of the environmental impacts of the products can be compared. This information can be used to understand and improve the environmental footprint of the products or to educate the stakeholders who are involved in the packaging decisions. The LCI results differ from similar international studies due to the importation of most raw materials and high air emissions from local electricity production.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Verbruikers het die afgelope paar jaar baie meer omgewingsbewus geword en plaas dus al hoe meer opwaardse druk via die verskaffingsketting op kleinhandelaars en vervaardigers. Een van die areas onder verdenking is voedselverpakking, want dit vorm nie deel van die produk wat verbruik word nie. Verpakking se primere funksie is die beskerming van die inhoud daarvan vanaf vervaardiging tot dit verbruik word. Die omgewingsimpak van verpakking is slegs 'n klein gedeelte van die algehele voedselketting. Navorsing deur Oki en Sasaki (2000) toon dat 'n tekort aan verpakkingsmateriaal in nasies met skaars sosiale infrastrukture veroorsaak geweldige verliese in voedsel. In ontwikkelde lande is voedselvermorsing ongeveer 1% terwyl minder ontwikkelde lande se voedselvermorsing so hoog as 50% tot 75% is. Funksionele verpakking help om die vermorsing te verminder. Verpakkingsmedia word dikwels gekies vir hul vermoee om aan die produk se vereistes te voldoen, maar verskillende materiale word onafhanklik van hul funksionele vereistes deur die publiek as meer of minder omgewingsvriendelik beskou. Die produkte met die beter omgewingsvriendelike reputasie is gewoonlik die wat herwin word en ook waar die herwinningspogins deur die maatskappye bemark word. Die persepsie weerspieel egter nie noodwendig die eintlike omgewingsimpak van die produktipe nie. Dit gebeur dikwels dat wanneer al die energiekostes en besoedelingsgevolge wat met die vervaardiging en herwinning van 'n spesifieke produk in ag geneem word, dit 'n erger impak as 'n produk wat slegs eenmalig gebruik en dan weggegooi word, het. Die langtermyn sukses van maatskappye in die verpakkingsindustrie sal gekoppel word aan verbruikersvoorkeure vir funksionele gepaste, omgewingsvriendelike verpakking. 'n Lewensiklus Analise word dikwels gebruik om 'n produk se omgewingsimpak te bepaal. Dit is 'n kwantitatiewe prosedure wat die omgewingslaste wat met die lewensiklus van ' n produk, proses of diens verband hou assesseer. Die volledige lewensiklus van 'n produk sluit die ekstraksie van rou materiaal (water ingesluit), prossesering, vervoer, vervaardiging, verspreiding, die gebruik en hergebruik van materiaal, instandhouding, herwinning en afval verwydering in (Brent. A.C.: 2003. 115). In hierdie verslag word die Lewensiklus Analise van drie Suid-Afrikaanse produkkategoriee saamgestel. Die kategoriee is geselekteer op grond van die volume gebruik in die verbruikersmark en ook die gepaste vergelykbare produkte wat beskikbaar is. Nadat die Lewensiklus Analise afgehandel is, gebaseer op realistiese verpakkingsprodukte en produksiemetodes, is dit moontlik om die resultate per kategorie voor te stel. 'n Volume van 1000 liter was gebruik vir die funksionele eenheidsvergelyking van twee houertipes. Die resultate toon dat, per funksionele eendheid, die polistireen houers 27% minder energie verbruik, maar dit produseer 32% meer C02 uitlatings as papierhouers. Die papierhouers gebruik egter 51 % meer water. Nie een van die produkte toon egter 'n beduidende algehele omgewingsvoordeel oor die ander nie. 'n Funksionele nommer van 10000 houers was gebruik vir 'n funksionele eenheidssvergelyking van burgerhouers. Die resultate wys dat die kartonhouers, per funksionele eeheid, 89% meer energie verbruik, 268% meer C02 uitlatings produseer en 239% meer water gebruik. Die polistireen bugerhouer het oor die algemeen 'n laer omgewingsimpak. 'n Funksionele nommer van 10 000 houers is gebruik vir die funksionele eenheidsvergelyking van twee protiene verpakkinghouers. Die resultate toon dat, per eenheid, polypropylene houers 94% meer energie verbruik, 197% meer C02 uitlatings produseer, maar net 76% water gebruik in vergelyking met die polistireen houer. Die Lewensiklus eenheidsvergelyking het gepaste data voorsien wat 'n opsomming verskaf waar die aspekte van die omgewingsimpak van die produkte vergelyk kan word. Hierdie inligting kan gebruik word om die omgewingsinvloed van die produkte te verstaan en te verbeter en ook om die deelnemers betrokke by die verpakkingsbesluite op te voed. Die Lewensiklus Analise resultate verskil van soortgelyke internasionale studies as gevolg van die invoer van die meeste rou materiale en groter lug besoedeling van plaaslike elektrisiteitsproduksie.

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