expanded polystyrene foam packaging

Packaging Life Cycle Analysis Highlights Environmental Benefits

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The EPS Industry Alliance (EPS-IA) is sharing its expanded polystyrene foam packaging life cycle assessment (LCA) findings. They used the most current methodology and scientific guidance in their study.

The LCA study evaluates the environmental impact of nine different EPS packaging materials over various stages of its lifecycle. They included: white goods, consumer electronics, corner protection, and pharmaceutical and agricultural cold chain shippers.

They identify material and energy inputs, differences, and trade-offs, permitting quantified and comparable data analysis of environmental advantages and point out further opportunities to reduce environmental impacts. EPS-IA members shared manufacturing and logistics data to ensure the LCA report represented an industry average.

The EPS-IA also maintains the life cycle assessment report for raw material production, which is used to provide more accurate LCA accounting for downstream applications like packaging and building insulation.

Life cycle assessments and analyses are used to evaluate and compare materials when designing sustainable packaging or to benchmark manufacturing and processing metrics when setting environmental improvement goals. While policymakers, NGO’s and other packaging stakeholders are recognizing LCA as a valuable tool in the environmental arena, society would benefit from a more robust adoption and implementation to encourage a broader focus on a product’s entire environmental footprint.

EPS-IA created several infographics to show how the EPS life cycle impacts compare to regular daily activities so that society can better interpret the data. An example illustrates how EPS energy consumption compares to the energy used by a single lightbulb.

To promote the increased use of LCA in sustainable packaging and in the context of circular economy principles, EPS-IA is working with UL Environment to develop the first North American Product Category Rule (PCR) for protective packaging. A PCR is a precursor to an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD), which is a certified third-party reviewed report that would allow packaging engineers to choose materials based on the full landscape of its environmental impacts. UL Environment is now inviting packaging stakeholders representing paper, plastics, and other material interests, to participate in the PCR development process.

Packaging design should be innovative. Science can guide environmental improvement processes and benchmarks.

SOURCE: EPS Industry Alliance

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