LCA of Tetra Pak cartons

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) comparing the environmental performance of Tetra Pak cartons to a range of competitive packaging options that were available in Australia and New Zealand at the end of 2019.

Cartons have the lowest carbon footprint of all packaging systems we considered

Out of all packaging systems included within this study, we found cartons have the lowest (or lowest-equal) carbon footprint. This is the case across all size classes and product categories we investigated.

We compared eight different packaging materials to cartons
Diagram of 8 packaging options considered against cartons in LCA packaging study for Tetra Pak..

 The study considered a range of:

  • packaging size classes (from 200 mL to 2 L)
  • product categories (long-life milk, fresh milk, juice, water, and food)
  • filling types (fresh and aseptic).

We assessed packaging using carbon footprinting and two other criteria

The environmental performance of each packaging system was determined by its carbon footprint, measured by Global Warming Potential, or GWP over 100 years.

In addition, we assessed packaging systems against two criteria:

  1. The mass of product that can be contained by a certain amount of packaging (product-to-packaging ratio)
  2. How much plastic packaging is required to contain a fixed volume of product (plastic-per-litre ratio)

The scope of the study included the entire packaging life cycle

We investigated the entire life cycle of each packaging option, as well as the packaging required for the products to reach consumers. This included:

  • consumer packaging
  • a one-way shipper carton or reusable crate
  • a pallet.

Diagram illustrating entire life cycle of packaging options in LCA packaging study for Tetra Pak. Includes packaging required for products to reach consumers.

 Click on image to enlarge

Cartons performed best across almost all factors we considered

We found cartons are more efficient at containing products using less packaging than all other packaging systems we considered, except pouches.

We also assessed a wide range of other environmental indicators to make sure that we were taking all environmental impacts into account. Cartons were a top performer, though not always the best. There were some cases where other packaging systems, such as pouches, performed better.


A good packaging choice

The results of this assessment provide Tetra Pak with a factual basis with which it can make statements to clients about the environmental performance of its packaging when compared to other systems.

Get the main findings of the LCA study in our case study "LCA of Tetra Pak: In a nutshell" below.