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Recycled PET comes out top in carbon study

Published:  23 July, 2008

Using recycled PET outstrips the benefits of ordinary PET packaging when reducing carbon emissions, a new study has found.

WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has announced the results of the first UK study into the carbon impact of bottling wine in the UK in glass and PET bottles.

The report looks at the carbon impact of 75cl glass and PET wine bottles and how significant reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) can be made through lightweighting and increasing recycled content of bottles. It compared PET bottles versus typical glass bottles used by UK-based bottlers.

The study found:

Using recycled PET

CO2 emissions are reduced when incorporating recycled PET into new bottle manufacture, primarily because extraction, transport and synthesis of crude oil are avoided. It is more energy and resource efficient to incorporate recycled PET into bottle manufacture than to produce PET bottles using only virgin material.

Using a lighter glass bottle

Lightweighting bottles has been shown to have benefits in terms of CO2 savings from transport of loads. Consequently, reducing glass bottle weight reduces the quantity of CO2 emissions associated with wine packaging. PET comes out marginally lower than the 365g glass bottle when using the medium estimate for glass production emissions, although the higher CO2 emissions arising for PET from manufacture offset much of the savings obtained from its low weight. In both scenarios, excluding or including end-of-life, the emissions attributed to the 54g PET bottle lie within the range of emissions attributable to the 365g glass bottle.

Richard Swannell WRAP Director of Retail and Organics Programmes commented: "This is an important piece of work that demonstrates the positive environmental impact of lightweighting and the incorporation of recycled content. It will help inform the wine, packaging and retail industries on the environmental impact of their packaging choices.

He added "The research highlights that there are clear environmental wins to be gained by considering carefully the impact of material choices. Ultimately, the final decisions by producers will also depend upon numerous variables including what the supply chain requires, product storage and shelf life requirements, recyclability and consumer preferences".

The full report can be downloaded by clicking here clicking here.