Cambridge insights on packaging sustainability
I hadn’t realised how many shortcomings there are in existing comparisons of packaging sustainability. The new University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership report “Towards sustainable packaging materials” shows that more complete and common methodology is vital for better policy and better informed consumer perceptions.
The report concludes that “no single material comes out clearly as having the lowest impact” across all measures and that “developing more circular systems, particularly to increase levels of recycling and the use of recycled content, may reduce the impact of all materials”.
The main findings compare results for a 50cl container and illustrate substantial differences as well as similarities.
The first measure made was for water usage. The report calculates that the United Kingdom uses
- 13 billion water and soft drink bottles a year, requiring
- 585,000 tonnes of plastic and
- 28 million tonnes of water.
Water usage per half litre container
Producing the plastic for a half litre of water involves an extra half litre of water. This is equivalent to a carton and rather less than an aluminium can, but a glass bottle uses 9 times as much water.