A recent study from IFCO Systems, a global provider of reusable plastic containers (RPCs), claimed that these containers generate 82% less solid waste, consume 92% less water, require 49% less energy and lower ozone depletion by 76% for a weighted average of 10 top produce commodities compared with shipping the same amount of produce in display-ready corrugated boxes. The report was produced by Franklin Associates, a Division of ERG, a leading consulting company specializing in life cycle analyses and solid waste management.
The Corrugated Packaging Alliance (CPA) took issue with how its industry was represented in the report.
“There are assumptions used in the study that don’t accurately reflect the corrugated market,” said Dennis Colley, CPA’s executive director. “These discrepancies influence the study in favor of RPCs. CPA has also been working on a comparative LCA to be released later this year. The study will contain accurate corrugated container and containerboard mill data, along with RPC data as reported by IFCO. The CPA study examines industry-wide corrugated data rather than data from one individual company and will include all ten commonly-used ISO certified environmental indicators instead of picking and choosing indicators that bias one system over another.”
Colley added that “As produce retailers review these studies, there are other continuous improvement initiatives that deserve consideration. The corrugated industry has a long history of responsible environmental stewardship.”
He cited the following:
· Corrugated containers are made from a renewable resource — trees. Today, the United States has 20 percent more trees than it did on the first Earth Day celebration more than 40 years ago.
· Sustainable Forestry Initiative participants plant 1.7 million new trees every day, contributing to the long-term viability of North American forests, preserving wildlife habitats, sequestering carbon dioxide and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.
· Forest products facilities produce 70 percent of the renewable biomass energy used by the entire manufacturing sector.
· 91 percent of corrugated containers were recovered for recycling in 2011, as recently reported by EPA.
· AF&PA members are committed to reducing water use in their pulp and paper mills by 12 percent by 2020.
Colley concluded, “The CPA, its sponsors and member companies recognize the importance of balancing good environmental science with creating efficiencies in the produce supply chain. In partnership with produce growers and shippers, corrugated manufacturers will continue to seek optimal performance in the delivery of produce from field to table.”