According to a recently published comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study from Ramboll, a leading global engineering, design and consultancy company and certified by TÜV, one of the world’s leading testing service providers, reusable serviceware is not necessarily the most sustainable choice for in-store dining at Quick Service Restaurants. The outcome was one that was welcome to Finnish sustainable packaging provider, Huhtamaki, whose many products include single-use packaging and serviceware that is both home compostable and made of renewable materials.
The study, in which paper-based single-use products were compared to reusable tableware in an in-store dining setting, found that the former provided significant key environmental advantages over the latter for Quick Service Restaurants in Europe. The full environmental impact was scientifically measured for both applications across multiple criteria and scenarios.
According to the results of this study, the polypropylene-based multi-use system was responsible for generating 2.7 times more CO2-e emissions than the paper-based single-use system. The single main contributor to climate change impact in the multi-use baseline scenario was the electricity consumed during the washing process. Overall, the use phase accounted for 83% of the total aggregated impact. In addition, the multi-use system used 3.6 times the amount of freshwater in the baseline scenario. Climate impact and freshwater consumption are considered the two most critical environmental impact categories today.
“The environmental impact of energy and water required for washing in a multi-use system demonstrates that reusable packaging is not the solution for the foodservice industry,” said Charles Héaulmé, President and CEO of Huhtamaki.
“Ramboll’s LCA provides scientific evidence which policymakers must welcome as they aim to develop regulation that is good for the planet and has no unintended consequences.“
Huhtamaki recognises that there are still gaps in the circularity of packaging that need to be addressed, and continues to work on the development of sustainable packaging solutions in line with its 2030 Strategy, which calls for the company to achieve carbon neutral production and for all its products to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2030.
“We believe that investments in waste management infrastructure are needed to further increase the recycling rates of paper-based packaging, which will further reduce their climate impact. We must also find ways to address anti-social littering, potentially via incentivization mechanisms, to support positive consumer behavior,” said Héaulmé,
In addition to climate impact and freshwater consumption, the LCA study measured environmental impact in the following categories: fossil depletion, particle pollution, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication, ionising radiation, metal depletion and stratospheric ozone depletion. Further categories where single-use packaging provided environmental advantages compared to a multi-use system were fossil depletion, particle pollution and terrestrial acidification.