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Life Cycle Analysis: A Data-Driven Approach to Sustainable Packaging

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) provides a framework to quantify and measure the environmental impacts of a product. LCA supports packaging manufacturers in making sustainable choices regarding sourcing, product design and manufacturing, while also assisting decisionmakers in selecting the most sustainable packaging.

Life Cycle Analysis: A Data-Driven Approach to Sustainable Packaging

Sustainability is often broadly defined as the ability to meet the needs of today without costing future generations the ability to meet their needs. The concept of sustainability is closely linked to the concept of a circular economy, where resources are conserved and waste is minimized, all with the goal of reducing environmental impact. That's where Life Cycle Analysis, also referred to as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) comes in, providing a concrete model to quantify and measure the environmental impacts of a product from raw material sourcing, to manufacturing, to use and disposal.

Life Cycle Analysis: Objectives

LCA maps a product's inputs and outputs, tracking objective measurements such as greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), fossil fuel consumption, water usage, and more. This data helps packaging manufacturers make sustainable choices regarding sourcing, product design, and manufacturing, while also helping packaging decision-makers make informed choices regarding the “most sustainable” packaging for a particular application. LCA is also used to compare different packaging solutions and to better understand the tradeoffs and opportunity costs of these decisions.

Let's take a closer look at how this analytical tool can help companies reduce environmental footprint and achieve sustainability goals.

Life Cycle Analysis: Critical Components

While various companies and organizations offer LCA consulting, training and software tools, the methodology is similar because the framework is standardized by ISO 14044. Life Cycle Analysis typically includes four key components or phases:

  • Goal and scope definition: This stage involves defining the purpose of the analysis (the question to be answered), the scope of the study (clearly documenting any limitations or assumptions), and the functional unit (the unit of comparison) of the product being analyzed.
  • Life cycle inventory: This stage involves gathering data on the inputs and outputs of each phase of the product’s lifespan, including raw material utilization, energy consumption and emissions.
  • Life cycle impact assessment: This stage involves evaluating the environmental impact of all inputs and outputs identified in the previous stage according to certain groupings, such as global warming potential, water and land use, and biodiversity loss.
  • Interpretation: This final stage consists of analyzing the results of the assessment, identifying areas for improvement, and making recommendations for sustainable product (or packaging) selection.

Life Cycle Analysis: Benefits

Life Cycle Analysis supports sustainable decision-making by providing concrete data with which stakeholders can evaluate packaging choices and their corresponding environmental impact. This data can be weighed together with other business factors such as cost, functionality, and consumer preference, to arrive at the optimal packaging decision for a company’s unique product and application. In summary, LCA benefits include:

  • Better decision-making: LCA data helps companies make fact-based choices and incremental improvements which conserve natural resources and minimize waste. The model supports the comparison of different packaging solutions in order to assess which option has a lower total environmental footprint.
  • Competitive advantage: Companies prioritizing sustainability can gain a competitive advantage by delivering on consumer preferences. LCA provides credible data which helps companies communicate their packaging choices, while helping consumers make informed decisions about the brands they trust and the products they purchase.
  • Transparency and ownership: LCA fosters transparent and accountable decision-making because it comprehensively evaluates the entire lifecycle of a product, from cradle to grave. The tool provides holistic data from which packaging professionals can evaluate and improve packaging materials, designs, and formats.

Life Cycle Analysis: the Pregis Packaging Advantage

As a leader in protective packaging, Pregis is experienced in conducting LCAs to help clients assess packaging solutions, advance sustainability performance, and gain a competitive edge. Pregis utilizes the third-party resource, EcoImpact-COMPASS® by Trayak, which is a streamlined LCA model tailored to packaging design evaluation.

Here are some ways that Pregis leverages COMPASS LCA findings to assist companies:

  • Sustainable packaging design: Pregis works with companies to design packaging optimized for sustainability, using the optimal material AND the minimum amount of material, all while providing the correct level of protection to minimize damage.
  • Process optimization: Pregis utilizes data to helps companies evaluate the impact of improved throughput and transportation on the environment. Reducing process waste reduces costs and increases fulfillment efficiencies.
  • Packaging education: Pregis is committed to help companies not only reduce their impact on the environment, but to support companies in communicating the “why” behind packaging decisions to their consumers. For example, after calculating LCA inputs, the software translates environmental impact into everyday equivalents. If selecting one packaging substrate decreases GHG emissions for a company, how do those CO2 savings translate into gallons of gasoline saved?

Life Cycle Analysis: Conclusion

LCA is a powerful tool for companies looking to improve their environmental performance and meet the growing demand for sustainable packaging. Companies can identify areas for improvement and take action to reduce their environmental footprint. With Pregis' expertise in sustainable packaging, companies can make a significant impact by optimizing their packaging design and processes, reducing waste and emissions, and demonstrating their commitment to sustainability.

Contact Pregis today to get started! Let Pregis help you conduct an LCA, design sustainable packaging solutions, optimize your packaging processes, provide data and analysis, and educate your team on sustainable packaging best practices.