LCA examples investigating​ environmental impact of food packaging

Several life cycle assessments (LCAs) have been made, investigating the environmental impact of food packaging systems. In the examples below, LCAs were undertaken by independent scientific institutes, using the internationally-accepted standard method (the ISO 14040 series of standards). All studies were peer-reviewed.

Wine containers

LCA of wine packaging

The environmental impact of selected wine packaging systems were assessed in 2010 in this LCA, including different sizes of glass bottles, PET bottles, bag-in-box, stand-up pouches and beverage cartons. Several environmental impact categories were assessed including impact on global warming and primary energy use. Tetra Pak was one of the project sponsors, together with Systembolaget Sweden, Vinmonopolet Norway, Elopak Group Norway, Vitop Smurfit Kappa France and Oenofors Sweden. When looking at the 0.75 litre size and the impact on global warming, the study shows that the beverage carton is the most favourable.​​

Read the study LCA study wine packaging​ (pdf)

Comparative study on wine containers show cartons' lower carbon footprint

This peer-reviewed scientific study from North America in 2006 was commissioned by Tetra Pak and compared different wine packaging systems – wine glass bottles, wine plastic bottles and wine cartons. It analysed each package according to its life cycle, the cradle-to-grave analysis of the product that covers all steps from raw material extraction through to container disposal. In all three categories measured, energy requirements, solid wastes, as well as greenhouse gas emissions, the cardboard packages scored significantly lower than the comparable plastic or glass bottles. The study is based on the internationally accepted standards for life cycle assessments, the ISO 14040 series.​

Read the study ​Comparative study wine cartons​ (pdf)

Beverage containers

Life Cycle Assessment of packages – European market (2020)

This LCA compares the environmental performance of several alternative packaging systems for beverages and food available on the European market. The study shows that the impact of Tetra Pak cartons on the climate is lower than other materials. Carton packages using plant-based plastics perform even better from a climate perspective – the study shows that the greater the share of renewable materials in the package, the lower the climate impact.

Read the summary report for the European market (pdf)

Read the full LCA report for the European market (pdf)

Life Cycle Assessment of packages – Nordic market (2019)

This LCA investigates the environmental impact of cartons and alternative packaging systems available on the Nordic market. The results are specific to the analysed products and market conditions. According to the study, carton packages have lower impact in most of the environmental categories compared to alternative systems in the segments of dairy, juice and Grab & Go. In addition, in the category ‘Climate Change’, cartons made with bio-based polymers show even lower impact.

Read the full LCA report for the Nordic market (pdf)

LCA of plastic and paper straws for portion-sized carton packages (2019)

The purpose of this study was to evaluate and compare the environmental impacts of alternative straw options, which have been assessed over their full life cycle, from cradle-to-grave. The burdens associated with 200ml portion-sized pack itself have also been assessed to put those of the straw and wrapping in context. The study - commissioned to thinkstep by Tetra Pak – has been critically reviewed by IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, cradle to grave study according to ISO 14040/44 with geographical scope Europe.

Read the study LCA of plastic and paper straws for portion-sized carton packages​​ (pdf)

LCA of beverage cartons with and without bio-based polymers (2016)

The purpose of this study was to provide knowledge of the environmental strengths and weaknesses of the Tetra Brik® and Tetra Brik Aseptic® 1000 Edge with bio-based polymer content and to compare the environmental performance of the carton with and without bio-based polymers. Four markets were included in the study: Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden. The study was performed during 2015-2016 by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute (IVL) and reviewed by a third party.

Read the study Comparative LCA of beverage cartons with and without bio-based polymers​​ (pdf)

LCA of consumer packaging for liquid food

This peer-reviewed scientific study was commissioned by Tetra Pak in 2009 and compared different packaging systems for the Nordic market. The study includes a number of Tetra Pak's packages, and includes reference values for plastic and glass packaging.​

Read the study Life Cycle Assessment ofconsumer packaging for liquid food ​(pdf)

Carton and PET bottles

Due to the specific market development in Germany, a follow-up study to the UBA-study was commissioned by the German Industry Association for Carton Packaging (FKN) in 2006. This independent and scientifically peer-reviewed study confirmed the long term environmental benefits of the cartons. Using the same LCA method and standards as the UBA study of 2002, the study compared beverage cartons and single-use plastic bottles and found the cartons to be clearly advantageous, both in term of its CO2 footprint as well as in some other impact categories.

Read the study Life cycle assessment Beverage cartons under test​​ (pdf)

Refillable and non-refillable beverage containers

An independent and peer-reviewed scientific study commissioned by the German Federal Environmental Agency, UBA, Berlin, Germany, in 2002 shows that drink cartons have a low environmental impact. The study compared the environmental performance of refillable and non-refillable beverage packages - plastic bottles, glass bottles, cans and drink cartons. Cartons were the only non-refillable packages that were identified as equally environmentally favourable to refillable glass bottles, and were classified as 'environmentally advantageous' under German packaging law.

Read the complete German ministry study (in German)

Read the complete English summary of study

Food containers

LCA of Tetra Recart® and alternative packaging systems, Europe 2021

This peer-reviewed life cycle assessment (LCA) study investigates the environmental impact of Tetra Recart comparing it with an alternative packaging system, stand up pouch for shelf stable soups. The study covers the market situation in Europe. All life cycle steps are included in the assessment, from raw material extraction to end-of-life management. The study has been commissioned by Tetra Pak and was finalized in February 2021. The study is performed in accordance with the relevant ISO standards (ISO 14040 and ISO 14044) and accompanied by a critical review process. The study concludes that the Tetra Recart packaging system in this segment shows lower impact on climate change than the compared packaging system. The results are specific to the analyzed products and the specific market conditions. 

Read the complete report (pdf)

Read the summary report (pdf)

Life Cycle Assessment of food packaging, Europe 2017

This peer-reviewed LCA study investigates the environmental impact of Tetra Recart and alternative packaging systems for the packaging of retorted food products, including the steel can and glass jar. The study covers the market situation in Germany, Italy and EU28+2. All life cycle steps are included in the assessment, from raw material extraction to end-of-life management.

The study has been commissioned by Tetra Pak and was finalised in December 2017. The study is performed in accordance with the relevant ISO standards (ISO 14040 and ISO 14044) and accompanied by a critical review process.

Read the summary report

LCA of Tetra Recart and alternative containers, U.S. 2014

This peer-reviewed LCA on food containers compares the Tetra Recart food package to the steel can and plastic pouch. All life cycle steps were included: material production, converting steps to transform raw materials into containers, filling empty containers with soup, retorting filled containers, transporting empty containers or rollstock to the filling location and transporting filled containers to the retail location, secondary packaging production (e.g., corrugated box or tray to transport filled containers), and disposal or recycling at end-of-life.  In line with the ISO 14040 standards, the LCA study has been reviewed by a panel of independent experts.

Read the summary report