Cleaner Products through Life Cycle Design (Milk and Juice Packaging)
Life cycle inventory and cost analysis tools applied to milk packaging offer important guidelines for achieving better environmental design and management of these systems. Life cycle solid waste, energy, and costs were analyzed for seven alternative systems including single use and refillable glass bottles, single use and refillable HDPE bottles, paperboard gable-top cartons, LLDPE flexible pouches, and polycarbonate bottles on a basis of 1000 gallons of milk delivered. In addition, key performance requirements were also investigated that highlighted potential barriers and tradeoffs for environmentally preferable alternatives. Sensitivity analyses, using a life cycle inventory and cost model, indicated that material production energy, post-consumer solid waste, and empty container costs were key parameters for predicting life cycle burdens and costs. Recent trends in recycling rates, tipping fees, and recycled materials market value had minimal effect on the results. Inventory model results for life cycle solid waste and energy indicated the same rank order as results from previously published life cycle inventory studies of container systems.Refillable HDPE and polycarbonate, and the flexible pouch were identified as the most environmentally preferable with respect to life cycle energy and solid waste. The greater market penetration of these containers may be limited by performance issues such as empty container storage and handling requirements, resealability, and puncture resistance and deposit fees for refillables.