Evaluating the sustainability impacts of packaging: The plastic carry bag dilemma

Lewis, H, Verghese, K and Fitzpatrick, L 2010, 'Evaluating the sustainability impacts of packaging: The plastic carry bag dilemma', Packaging Technology and Science, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 145-160.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Evaluating the sustainability impacts of packaging: The plastic carry bag dilemma
Author(s) Lewis, H
Verghese, K
Fitzpatrick, L
Year 2010
Journal name Packaging Technology and Science
Volume number 23
Issue number 3
Start page 145
End page 160
Total pages 16
Publisher John Wiley and Sons Ltd.
Abstract Life cycle assessment (LCA) is used by practitioners and policy-makers to help them understand the sustainability impacts of packaging. LCA is useful because it quantifies the impact of a product throughout its life cycle, from raw materials extraction through to disposal or recovery. However, it can only ever be one input to decisions about the design or procurement of packaging. LCA has limitations as a tool to measure environmental impact and it does not currently evaluate social or financial impact. This paper provides a critical review of the role of LCA in evaluating packaging sustainability. It does this by evaluating the results of LCA studies that compare different types of carry bags and their implications for policy and practice. The benefits and limitations of this type of analysis are discussed. The case study of plastic carry bags demonstrates that while a scientific understanding of life cycle impacts is essential to support informed decision-making, a broader sustainability analysis is required to ensure that all relevant issues are considered. These include the functionality of alternative bags, their relative cost, convenience for consumers and retailers, and the availability of reuse and recovery systems. An alternative approach, which evaluates packaging design within a broader sustainability framework, is presented and discussed.
Keyword(s) Life cycle assessment
Plastic carry bags
Sustainability
Sustainable packaging
DOI - identifier 10.1002/pts.886
Copyright notice © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
ISSN 0894-3214
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 25 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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