Fresán and colleagues undertook ‘cradle-to-gate’ carbon footprint studies of six common breakfast foods eaten in southern California: orange juice, milk, instant coffee, breakfast cereals, bread buns and peanut butter.[1] Similar to a number of other LCA studies, they found that the packaging for each of the foods contributed a minor part of the life cycle-based carbon footprint compared with the food production. With a few exceptions, and for a range of different serving sizes, the packaging contributed 10% or less of the total carbon footprint for food production plus packaging. The exceptions were orange juice and breakfast cereals where the packaging carbon footprint was 13 to 35% of this carbon footprint, and bread buns in single-serve packages where the packaging contributed 17% of the carbon footprint. The carbon footprint of the paper packaging was lower than the plastic packaging, and glass packaging had the highest carbon footprint. However, the authors noted that the different properties of these materials need to be considered when choosing a packaging material; for example, paper and plastic are lightweight, plastic is flexible, and glass is inert and impermeable.

 

The packaging for each of the foods contributed a minor part of the life cycle-based carbon footprint compared with the food production. The packaging contributed 10% or less of the total carbon footprint for food production plus packaging

 

 

References

[1] Fresán et al., “Does the Size Matter? A Comparative Analysis of the Environmental Impact of Several Packaged Foods,” Science of The Total Environment 687 (2019)

Explore more case studies from Rethinking Plastics

Sustainability through connection, learning and action

With a kaupapa of creating a healthy, peaceful, more sustainable world, Toimata Foundation supports inter-generational learning and action by running two main programmes in schools and communities:…

Reducing the carbon footprint of plastics by using recycled plastic

In a study of the carbon footprint of projected global plastic use between 2015 and 2050, Zheng and Suh modelled a theoretical situation of 100% recycling of plastic in 2050, and found it had a 25%…

A reusable system to replace single-use cups

Globelet offers a reusable cup system for festivals and other events. The cups are made from recycled polypropylene (#5) and manufactured onshore. Globelet provides the following statistics on their…

How big is the plastic clothing problem for Aotearoa New Zealand?

Some plastic articles of clothing are captured in the ‘Plastics and articles thereof’ harmonised trade codes in import data from Statistics NZ, but this does not account for all synthetic fibres im…

A business enabling people to rethink their use of plastic

Ecostore is an exemplar of how a business can take transformative action to rethink how we use plastics and inspire system-wide change. To enable people to reduce their use of non-renewable single-…

New Zealand Post’s quest for an alternative to plastic

The driver: New Zealand Post wants a more sustainable, environmentally friendly alternative to their existing plastic mailers (e.g. courier bags, pre-paid postage bags). New Zealand Post has also…

Para Kore – helping people reduce their waste

Para Kore is a Māori organisation that provides mentoring and support for marae, kōhanga reo, kura, community organisations, iwi, tertiary, commercial sector, events and Māori communities to reduce…

Plastic Bag Free Raglan, Pēke Kirihou Kore Whāingaroa

In October 2018, Whāingaroa Raglan won the Keep New Zealand Beautiful ‘Community Environmental Initiative Award’. The kōrero behind the Award was a story of what happened when a whole community wor…

Controlled plastic decomposition

Plastics are made by joining monomers together to form long flexible chains in a process known as polymerisation. The strength of the bonds formed between monomers is what makes the plastics persis…

Recyclable shoes

As part of its recent pledge to use only recycled plastics by 2024, Adidas revealed a new sneaker made from 100% recyclable materials. Driven by a connection to environmental organisation Parley for…