Life cycle assessments (LCAs) are scientific studies that analyse a product’s environmental performance associated with all the stages of its life, from the extraction of raw materials to processing, manufacturing, distribution and end-of-life treatment and emissions.
These studies reveal the key drivers of beverage carton’s environmental impact and enable comparisons within and beyond our portfolio of products.
Tetra Pak has commissioned1 and published LCA studies since the 1980s. All studies collected on this page are carried out by independent scientific institutes and are critically reviewed, in line with ISO 14040 and 14044. We use them to understand, improve and communicate about the environmental performance of our products.
The environmental performance of beverage cartons is mainly driven by the raw materials used and their disposal or further use at the end of the beverage carton lifecycle. One significant finding from LCAs is that increasing the content of renewable materials in beverage cartons reduces their climate impact. For example, by incorporating a higher proportion of paper and plant-based polymers, the carton can achieve a lower climate impact.
Read the summary of the meta-study of various LCAs (2021), which shows that plant-based beverage cartons show lower climate change impacts than standard beverage cartons.
Some LCAs are designed to compare the environmental performance of different alternatives for the same task, e.g. the packaging of 1000L of a given beverage. A key finding of such comparative studies is, that beverage cartons, in various regions and food and beverage segments, exhibit lower climate impacts compared to alternative packaging options available in the market.
For instance, a European meta-study synthesised the results of 16 country-level studies. In the dairy and juice, nectar, still drink (JNSD) packaging segments, beverage cartons consistently showcased lower climate impacts than all the analysed alternatives.
Furthermore, the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) commissioned a separate meta-study, which compared beverage cartons to PET, glass, and returnable glass. The results of this study reaffirmed that beverage cartons have a lower climate impact than these alternative packaging materials.
The results shown in the Lifecycle Assessment indicate that beverage cartons are, by comparison, a low-climate impact alternative but also show us areas of further improvement.
As there is a particular interest in the climate performance of beverage cartons to us and within our value chain, we supplement our use of LCAs with a Product Carbon Footprint calculation model.
Our product CO2 model has been certified by the Carbon Trust as capable of generating carbon footprints in compliance with PAS 2050: 2011, ISO 14044:2006 and ISO 14067:2018. The product CO2 model is used to calculate the carbon footprint of individual beverage cartons. Such footprint data can be accessed for selected packages in our ProductXplorer platform and is shared with our customers on request to inform their decision-making, environmental reporting and communication.
*LCA Climate supplements utilize the 2020 LCA European study as a foundation, but they evaluate various beverage cartons and alternative packaging based on local conditions. These supplements solely concentrate on climate impact and rely on the European baseline study for all other environmental effects.
1An LCA is unique to the market(s) for which it was commissioned and the conditions under which it was conducted. This means that the results are not universally applicable and may not be extrapolated beyond the original study scope.