It does not work without packaging
What benefits can packaging provide? Answers are provided by a study commissioned by the Working Group Packaging and Environment.
Packaging materials not only serve to protect food, but are often the most important aspect of a life cycle assessment for the corresponding product. This is the conclusion of the study "Benefits of Packaging", which the Gesellschaft für Verpackungsmarktforschung (GVM) from Mainz and the denkstatt Institute from Vienna prepared on behalf of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Verpackung und Umwelt (AGVU). If only one in 900 laptops were damaged during delivery without packaging, the resulting climate emissions would be higher than those of all 900 packages, explains Alexander Reitz of GVM and project leader of the study. By way of background, more than 15 million notebooks and tablets are sold in Germany every year. This results in 4,000 tons of packaging consumption.
In several concrete examples, the study shows why it can make sense to package food at retail. As a rule, the environmental impact of the packaged product is many times greater than that of the packaging. If you buy 150 grams of sliced cheese at the fresh counter, you may cause less packaging, but not less waste. This is because cheese waste is reduced by 97 percent when it is purchased on the self-service shelf. Unpackaged cheese deteriorates faster and is thrown away sooner, Reitz explains. 150 grams of unpackaged sliced cheese causes 5 percent waste at retail, while the same amount packaged with a lidding film causes only 0.14 percent waste. The high environmental cost of cheese production results in a high environmental benefit of avoiding 5 percent cheese waste. In other words, this environmental benefit from the lidding film is 2.5 times higher than the sum of the additional environmental consumption.
The study also proves that consumers often tend to overestimate the environmental impact of packaging, Reitz says. For example, packaging actually accounts for only about 1.5 to 2 percent of the annual climate footprint, measured in carbon dioxide emissions, of an average European consumer. The ecological footprint of one person's round-trip flight from Berlin to Paris is equivalent to the ecological footprint of five years of packaging consumption. A trip from Berlin to Singapore with a round-trip flight corresponds to an ecological footprint of 30 years.