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)

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