Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of food products

Consumers have a “Love Hate” relationship with packaging. They “Love” the appearance, convenience and functionality the pack affords them as they consume a wide variety of products but, once the packs task has been performed and it becomes waste, they “Hate” the fact that the materials in the pack could become waste. 

For over 20 years the packaging sector has been required to examine its environmental footprint and to continuously reduce it, recycling the used packaging materials for future use wherever possible.
To do this, the packaging sector has effectively used the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method to quantify and track progess. This also required the industry to produce accurate data for both the packaging materials and the processes used to convert them into packaging.

However, there has always been a belief with in the packaging sector that the environmental impact of packaging has been overstated relative to the impact of the product and this appears to now have been conclusively demonstrated by an ever increasing number of full LCA studies done on food products. These LCA’s help to create a full picture of the environmental impact of a product from “field to fork” and provides insights as to the relative contribution to the environmental impacts from the food or the packaging during each part of the products journey along the supply chain though to disposal.

To better understand the environmental impacts due to the aluminium foil in different packaging applications, EAFA had a number of full LCA studies carried out by independent 3rd party LCA specialist institutes. The three main objectives of these studies were to:

  • Understand of the environmental impact of the foil packaging with respect to its function within the life cycle of the product
  • Quantify the contribution of the foil packaging to increasing the use of that resource efficiently: e.g. through the prevention of spoilage of the product and efficient pack design
  • Show how the foil packaging adds value by helping consumers to consume more sustainably e.g. by considering aspects like consumption occasions and portion sizes and contrasting these benefits with the increase in environmental impact due to the packaging

Conclusion: The different LCA studies clearly show that the aluminium foil packaging actively contributes to minimising the overall environmental impact of the product by reducing spoilage, over consumption and/or by facilitating more sustainable lifestyles.

The executive summaries of the EAFA full Life Cycle Assessments can be downloaded here: