Corrugated fires back at crate study


Comparative life cycle analyses (LCAs) are generally used for one purpose: to demonstrate a preferred option, if possible, from an environmental point of view. They do not consider the other “legs” of the sustainability stool (social desirability and economic viability) so are limited in that sense. And because they are comparative, and have potential commercial implications, they have to be looked at and studied in detail very, very carefully.

Who commissioned and paid for them? Are the conclusions that have been drawn representative of the actual marketplace? Do the studies meet ISO standards? Did they have adequate peer review? Are the functional units of comparison the same? Are all appropriate environmental indicators included? How good is their data for competing materials or systems?

In recent years, the reusable crate lobby has made a determined effort to eat into the corrugated box market for the delivery of fresh produce to retailers. They have used LCAs in the past to claim that theirs is a better environmental alternative. Now one of these companies, IFCO, has commissioned its own comparative LCA. It concludes that a crate system is superior from an environmental point-of-view. We are still studying it in detail, so at this stage will withhold our comment.

However, our US colleagues, who have commissioned their own comparative LCA, have responded as follows((CPA Press Release: Corrugated Packaging Alliance Responds to IFCO Life Cycle Analysis))c[1]: “There are assumptions used in the (IFCO) study that don’t accurately reflect the corrugated market. These discrepancies influence the study in favour of reusable plastic crates (RPCs). The Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA) has also been working on a comparative LCA to be released later this year. The (CPA) study will contain accurate corrugated container and containerboard mill data, along with RPC data as reported by IFCO. The CPA study examines industry-wide corrugated data rather than data from one individual company and will include all ten commonly used ISO certified environmental indicators instead of picking and choosing indicators that bias one system over another.”

Stay tuned!


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John Mullinder

Executive Director Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC)
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