June 14, 2022, New Delhi: A recent study by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a first-of-its-kind in India, comparing the most used beverage packaging substrates, shows that aluminium cans support a fully circular economy and majority of them have the least Global Warming Potential (GWP).
The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) compared the environmental sustainability of aluminium cans, glass bottles, PET plastic bottles and multi-layer packaging (MLP). The packages were studied against 18 environmental impact categories including GWP, water consumption, acidification and material circularity.
The study assessed 250 ml and 500 ml aluminium cans; 200 ml, 600 ml and 750 ml PET bottles; 200 ml, 330 ml and 650 ml glass bottles; and 200 ml MLP cartons. In its 500 ml form, aluminium cans, already the world’s most recycled drinks container, averaging 69% globally and 85% in India, performed best in multiple impact categories, in particular because of its recyclability, high recycled content and light weight.
The 200 ml MLP cartons came a close second with regard to GWP, followed by the 600 ml PET bottles. The single use glass bottles did not perform well across several impact categories due to their high energy intensive manufacturing and relatively low-recycled content.
‘Sustainable Beverage Packaging Options in India: A Comparative Life Cycle Assessment Study’ commissioned by Ball Beverage Packaging, India was presented to Mr Bhupender Yadav, Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, in New Delhi on June 13.
The study has used India-specific data and the LCA tool across a ‘cradle to grave’ cycle of substrates. This includes raw material extraction, the manufacture of primary and secondary packaging materials, transportation between the different stages in the value chain, as well looking at the end-of-life aspects of the different packaging types.
Dr Vibha Dhawan, Director General, TERI said, “This study has been carried out at a time when there is growing environmental consciousness among Indian consumers and significant policy thrust by the Indian government towards promotion of circularity across various sectors.” Dr Dhawan pointed out that India has already drafted a national resource efficiency policy that identified the imperative of achieving complete circularity in sectors including aluminium. “This LCA Report will significantly contribute towards the ambitious initiative of the Circular Economy Mission of the Government of India, thereby helping them in making sound decisions towards strengthening resource efficiency in the beverage packaging sector in India,” she added.
Mr Amit Lahoti, Senior Commercial Director and General Manager – Asia, Ball Beverage Packaging said, “In India, more than 85% of aluminium cans are being collected for recycling and the Ball cans assessed in this study contain more than 76% recycled content. On this basis, aluminium beverage cans can be described as a material of choice for a circular economy, helping brands and consumers using this packaging to reduce their carbon footprint.”
The LCA study aims to provide deeper insights about beverage packaging choices and their sustainability implications. Mr Souvik Bhattacharjya, Associate Director, TERI, who led the study said, “The environmental assessment across various beverage packaging substrates reveal that aluminium has a relative advantage on quite a few environmental parameters. MLPs are light for transport but they’re complex in structure, making them difficult to recycle.” Mr Bhattacharjya added that the study intends to inform stakeholders along the production consumption chain about making the right choices, to reduce environmental impacts, and to support a circular economy.
The study is of particular significance since the growing demand for packaging solutions is also steering the focus towards their environmental sustainability. The findings of the study highlight the need to enhance circular systems, increase the focus on recycled content as far as technologically feasible, and maximizing refill cycles of bottles designed for reuse.