• Recent, Sustainability

Why single-use packaging is better than reusable

According to a new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study there are significant environmental benefits to single-use systems when compared to multi-use systems. At Huhtamaki, we believe that facts and evidence are the foundation for decision-making and regulation and therefore welcome the new scientific insights into the environmental impacts of single-use packaging this LCA provides us with.


New Study on environmental impacts of packaging 

The LCA, conducted by Ramboll, compares the environmental impact of paper-based single use packaging to that of reusable tableware in Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) across Europe. In the study, single-use systems showed advantages particularly in carbon emissions and freshwater consumption. These are due to the amounts of energy and water needed to wash, sanitize and dry multi-use tableware. In the baseline scenario, the polypropylene-based multi-use system was responsible for generating over 2.5 times more CO2-e emissions and using 3.6 times the amount of freshwater than the paper-based single-use system.

Mitigating climate change is urgent 

We know that climate change is the greatest challenge facing the planet and that we all have a responsibility to minimize our climate impact effectively, today. To do so, we need to take decisions based on scientific insights rather than base our actions on beliefs and assumptions.

Ultimately, we have to first understand the real climate impact of our actions so that the right choices are made with the best possible outcomes. This is why I warmly welcome the study conducted by Ramboll as it provides policymakers with the much needed scientific evidence and robust data in support of truly environmentally viable options. This way policies can make a genuinely positive difference without unintended consequences. 

Water Stress is increasing globally 

When it comes to freshwater consumption, water stress is an issue of growing global importance. More and more areas are facing freshwater supply issues. It is incredibly important for policy decisions to take this into account.

As industry we must do our part and evaluate how we can minimize our water use and ensure we use the best available technologies to manage the water we do use. At Huhtamaki, we are currently assessing our water management plans across our 81 manufacturing units in 35 countries. 

Working towards better waste management 

Nevertheless, there are still gaps in the circularity of packaging that need to be addressed. At Huhtamaki, we are proactively developing sustainable packaging solutions, in line with our 2030 Strategy. As part of our high sustainability ambitions, we are committed to achieving carbon neutral production and designing all our products to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2030.

In addition to actions by industry, we need improvement in waste collection and recycling infrastructures, which are needed to further increase recycling rates and the move to a truly circular society. However, even this does not solve the highly visible issue of littering. We must find ways to address this issue and encourage consumers to recycle today.

Better information, better decisions 

Ultimately, in order to innovate and deliver sustainability across society as a whole, we need enabling regulation founded on scientific evidence and facts. Thus far, there has been a lack of evidence regarding the environmental impacts of packaging, so I welcome the contribution this LCA on single-use packaging vs. multi-use tableware makes to the conversation and to the design of evidence-based policymaking.  

A summary of the Life Cycle Assessment is available from EPPA at www.eppa-eu.org