It’s an important question for us at SIG too. As part of our business strategy, we have set goals to become overall net positive in key environmental areas, including climate change. This means we will put more into society and the environment than we take out. We call it going Way Beyond Good.
An essential part of our strategy is to offer our customers packaging choices that support them in running more sustainable businesses. And this means we strive to offer packaging made from responsibly sourced, sustainable materials with the least contribution to climate change – or smallest carbon footprint.
A carbon footprint is a measure of how much a product contributes to climate change; a measure calculated on the emissions of greenhouse gases (mainly CO2) emitted in the production of its raw materials and in its processing.
To analyze the carbon footprint of our carton packs, we commissioned independent experts from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IFEU) in Heidelberg, Germany. Using the ISO 14040 international standard for LCAs, they conducted life cycle assessments (LCAs) that compared SIG carton packs with various other food and beverage packaging types in the European market. An independent panel critically reviewed their work.
The study covered the whole process of production. That is, the extraction and production of raw materials, converting processes, all transports and the final disposal or recycling of the packaging systems.
In every assessment, the lifecycle carbon footprint of a carton pack was found to be significantly lower than the packaging alternatives – by as much as up to 70%.
But why? Here are three reasons that explain why SIG carton packs achieve top performance on low carbon
1) Raw Materials: Chosen for Renewability
Our cartons are made from 70-80% liquid packaging board (LPB), which comes from wood, a bio-based and renewable resource. Trees can grow quickly and be regenerated at a sustainable rate, absorbing carbon dioxide as they grow. This meaning the LPB in our packs, which are allowed to carry the Forest Stewardship Council™ certification label (licence code: FSC™ C020428), has a very low carbon footprint compared with other packaging materials such as plastic (PET).
With this as a starting point, we are determined to go even further and have set a goal to offer a pack made from 100% renewable materials by 2020. Our product designers are working to replace the aluminium and polymer in our standard aseptic packs with renewable alternatives. This will help us achieve a more sustainable and an even lower-carbon product without compromising quality or performance.
2) Smart Design: Space-saving and Lightweight
The efficient shape of our carton packs means that after filling they can be stacked together closely with minimal wasted space. A trailer of filled carton packs carries around 95% content with just 5% of the space taken by the packaging. This makes cartons much more efficient to transport than round shapes, such as bottles. What’s more, over the past 20 years, working together with our raw paperboard suppliers, we’ve cut the weight of our cartons by more than 23%. Additionally, we continue to seek new ways to reduce weight without compromising performance.
As a result, our customers need fewer trucks to carry our products, less fuel to haul the weight, and less space to store the products. These factors further reduce the overall carbon footprint throughout the product lifecycle.
Aseptic packaging offers the added benefit of ambient transportation, storage and display. Because no refrigeration is need – and therefore no energy to drive chillers – there are no carbon emissions (or costs) from chilling.
3) End of life: designed for recyclability
All the materials in SIG cartons can be recovered and recycled. Our carton board is often used to make high-grade tissue, helping that product shrink its carbon footprint. This is because recycled materials need less energy to produce than virgin materials.
Independent studies show that even in regions with low recycling rates, the environmental performance of carton packs is superior to competing packaging materials. This is because carton packs are resource efficient and made mainly out of carton board from renewable sources. Carton board from SIG has an outstanding low impact performance. This is due to certified sustainability in forestry and high utilization of green energy made from pulping waste. The environmental performance of non-renewable materials, such as plastic and glass, is dependent on recycling. In other words, for packaging with a lower environmental performance, only recycling can improve its environmental profile. For carton packs, recycling is an additional boost to an already winning environmental performance.
A bright future for cartons
We know that from a carbon perspective, SIG carton packaging is already outperforming many of the alternatives that are currently available. But now we want to go even further.
By 2030, our goal is to offer customers the most sustainable food packaging solutions on the market. Innovation is key, and we will continue to develop smart solutions that offer high performance and proven sustainability benefits across the entire lifecycle.
We have already taken steps towards a 100% renewable pack by creating combibloc EcoPlus – an aseptic packaging solution that has a significantly smaller life-cycle carbon footprint than the standard aseptic pack. By using a different material structure, we have eliminated aluminium, replacing it with an ultra-thin polyamide layer. This increases the share of renewable materials in the pack from 75% to 82% and cuts the carbon footprint by up to 28%.
Sustainability is integral to our business strategy. Thus, we are determined to lead the way in creating sustainable packaging that helps our customers and partners throughout our value chain achieve their goals. An important part of our commitment to becoming a net-positive company is to constantly shrink the carbon footprints of our packs- going Way Beyond Good.
Want to know more about our responsibility efforts? Give us a call, comment or e-mail us.