New Study Confirms IFCO Reusable Plastic Containers' Sustainability Advantage

Thu. March 16th, 2017 - by Robert Schaulis

TAMPA, FL – IFCO has released the results of an updated report detailing the ways in which the company’s Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) deliver greater environmental savings than single-use corrugated fiber containers.

Daniel Walsh, President, IFCO North America“IFCO has a strong commitment to the environment, and IFCO RPCs have developed a well-deserved reputation as a sustainable option for fresh produce packaging,” said Daniel Walsh, President, IFCO North America, in a company press release. “This study shows that RPCs—across-the-board—are the most sustainable choice for fresh food packaging compared to corrugated boxes.”

The peer-reviewed report was entitled “Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Reusable Plastic Container and Display- and Non-Display-Ready Corrugated Containers Used for Fresh Produce Applications” (LCA). The LCA—an update to an April 2016 study—reviewed the environmental impact of RPCs versus Display-Ready Corrugated Fiber Containers (DRC) and Non-Display Ready Corrugated Fiber Containers (NDC) used in the packaging of apples, bell peppers, carrots, grapes, iceberg lettuce, onions, oranges, peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, and strawberries in North America.

IFCO Reusable Plastic Containers

The 2017 LCA indicated that, compared to display-ready corrugated boxes, RPCs:

  • Produce 31% less global warming potential (carbon dioxide equivalents)
  • Produce 86% less solid waste
  • Consume 80% less water
  • Require 64% less energy
  • Contribute significantly less environmental pollution (85% lower eutrophication, 78% lower ozone depletion, 66% lower acidification, and 42% less photochemical smog)

The report concluded that IFCO RPCs were the most environmentally sustainable of the compared containers, across all categories: “In all eight examined environmental indicators (energy demand, global warming potential, ozone depletion potential, water consumption, acidification, eutrophication, photochemical smog, solid waste generation), the IFCO RPCs, as defined in this analysis, provide greater environmental savings for delivering produce in North America than does the use of fiber corrugated containers for these commodities.”

IFCO Reusable Plastic Containers

The study was conducted by Franklin Associates, a nationally-recognized life cycle assessment and solid waste management consulting firm. Franklin Associates looked at the sustainable attributes of RPCs, display-ready corrugated fiber containers (DRCs) and non-display-ready corrugated fiber containers (NDCs) used to package, transport, and display fresh produce. Results were peer-reviewed by packaging and LCA experts from the School of Packaging at Michigan State University, the Center for Sustainable Systems School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, and an LCA consultant who is a former U.S. EPA LCA Manager and current Editor-In-Chief of the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.

Walsh concluded: “IFCO’s share and reuse business model is an important part of the drive toward a Circular Economy that results in zero emissions and zero waste. We will continue to advance the sustainability of our products and operations in the months and years ahead so that we can preserve the world’s natural resources for future generations.”

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