Parametric life cycle assessment modeling of reusable and single-use restaurant food container systems
Single-use packaging generates millions of tonnes of plastic waste per year – a circular economy waste reduction strategy is to implement reusable container systems for restaurant takeout. We developed a parametric life cycle assessment (LCA) and cost model and used scenario analysis to study customer behavior effects on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, primary energy, water use, and cost of a reusable container system in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Under our base case scenario, the primary reusable container has lower impacts across most metrics than comparable single use containers. Benefits are sensitive to excess customer transportation; if 5% of customers make trips solely to return used containers, the reusable system has higher life cycle GHG emissions and primary energy use than single-use. Additionally, if a large fraction (close to 100%) of customers practice excess at-home washing of containers, the life cycle primary energy impacts will be greater than those of most single-use containers.
Takeout food containers
Life cycle assessment
Greenhouse gas emissions
Life cycle costs
Hitt, Christian, Jacob Douglas, Gregory A. Keoleian. (2023). Parametric life cycle assessment modeling of reusable and single-use restaurant food container systems. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 190, 106862. CSS23-01