( Corrugated Packaging Alliance )

A 126-page life cycle assessment study commissioned by the Corrugated Packaging Alliance finds that neither corrugated containers nor reusable plastic containers hold the upper hand in all environmental impact measures.

The peer-reviewed study was conducted by Quantis and was conducted in accordance with ISO 14044 standards and guidelines for life cycle assessment studies, according to a news release.

The life cycle assessment, according to the release, compared the environmental impact from extraction of raw materials to end-of-life for “the two commonly-used produce container systems across eight of the highest volume produce items.”

The study found that, when comparing systems using market-weighted averages, the corrugated container system has an advantage for global warming, eutrophication, and non-renewable resources. One the other hand, researchers found RPCs have an advantage for acidification, smog, respiratory effects and ozone depletion.

“The LCA results demonstrate that systems should be evaluated holistically and on a product by product basis,” CPA Executive Director Dennis Colley said in the release. “It’s not as simple as adding up the number of categories with the lowest impact score and calling one container system the winner. It really does depend on what’s being shipped, where it’s being shipped and other variables of the supply chain to determine what’s the best solution for a particular product.”

The study said that both corrugated and RPCs have opportunities to improve and lessen their impact on the environment. 

“For corrugated carton system, this includes minimizing container weight and maximizing container recovery,” the report said. “The RPC system can achieve environmental performance improvement through increasing reuse and recycled content along with reducing breakage/loss as well as transport distances.”