Complete carbon footprint
To get an accurate picture of a containers carbon footprint we included all steps in the process, not only what happened inside the factory gates. The LCA analysed the complete carbon impact of glass production from raw extraction of materials through to end-of-life management.
- Raw material extraction. Extraction and then processing of the raw materials including recycled glass (cullet). Cullet reduces raw materials required to make new glass containers.
- Raw material transportation. Transportation or raw materials and cullet to the manufacturing facility.
- Production process. Production plus combustion of fuels and energy for melting and forming glass containers.
- Transport of finished goods. Transportation of finished containers to the end user.
- End-of-life management. Refilling, recycling or disposal of glass packaging.
Water usage at a typical plant
Typically one of our plants uses about 200,000 litres per day of water.
Energy efficient furnaces
A traditional furnace is heated using natural gas and the oxygen present in air. A gas-oxy furnace uses natural gas and purified oxygen to heat the furnace. This requires less energy and significantly reduces emissions because there is practically no nitrogen present. In fact, there is a 90% reducing in nitrous oxides or NOx. Recently we installed gas-oxy furnaces at our plants in Jarvakandi - Estonia, Villotta - Italy and Harrow - UK.
Facts show that transportation is a total of only 5% of total carbon footprint
- Refillable glass containers have the smallest carbon footprint
- Carbon footprint of single use glass containers is still competitive with or better than other materials
Why complete LCA's matter
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time. O-I feels a storming sense of responsibility - both as a global citizen and as a business serving consumer goods producers.
To this end we recently established ambitious sustainability goals, we undertook one of the first complete lifecycle assessments (LCA) in the packaging sector. It is global in scope and encompasses every stage of the packaging lifecycle.
Widely varying methods
Findings from our LCA helped to determined our sustainability program and goals, and offered clarity for our customers. Methods for packaging LCA's varies widely making comparison difficult between substates. Simply put, without a complete LCA, customers and consumers are only seeing a small portion of the material true environmental profile.
The O-I LCA methodology that measures the environmental impact of every stage in the product lifecycle is the only complete measurement example to date and as a result ensures customers and consumers get a clear picture of the performance of glass packaging.
We expect that the complete LCA methodology used by our company and our industry will establish a higher standard of clarity for conducting environmental impact assessments in the consumer goods packaging industry. To that end, there are some basic questions customers should ask their packaging suppliers to help determine what is – and what is not – being reflected in their LCAs.
Common approaches to the LCA
The graphic below depicts commonly used LCA methods such as 'cradle to gate' and 'cradle to grave' which selectively focusses on limited parts of the life cycle. The 'cradle to cradle' method which includes the recovery of post-consumer material in closed loop production. This is the methodology that O-I has used in its study.
Comparing LCA data
O-I ran two sets of analyses to illustrate the importance of looking at the full life cycle when comparing carbon footprint data across different packaging materials. The first analysis, depicted in the charts below, used publicly available data to compare the composition of carbon footprints of major packaging material types by life cycle stage. The findings confirm that different materials are more carbon-intensive at different stages, reflecting the importance of like-to-like comparisons.
The second analysis calculated the complete carbon footprint of the most commonly used carbonated beverage containers in O-I’s four global operational regions.
LCA reveals full benefit of glass
While a life cycle assessment establishes an important quantitative benchmark, the full sustainable benefits of glass packaging include additional environmental, health, social and economic dimensions that reach above and beyond what can be measured in an LCA. These include health and safety, recycling, reuse and resource efficiency.
Recycling and reuse
Glass recycling and reuse contribute significantly to reducing glass packaging’s carbon footprint. The use of recycled glass or cullet (pictured above) in batch materials has the following beneficial impacts:
- Every 1 kg of cullet used replaces 1.2 kg of virgin raw materials that would otherwise need to be extracted
- Every 10% of recycled glass or cullet used in production results in an approximate 5% reduction in carbon emissions and energy savings of about 3%
Glass is resource efficient, and can be reused in its original form more than other packaging materials. Additionally, several initiatives currently underway in the glass industry will further increase the efficiency of glass packaging, including:
- Efforts to improve recovery and recycling of glass containers help eliminate the diversion of glass to landfill, leading to a decrease in energy use and global warming potential.
- Lightweighting glass containers reduces raw material usage, emissions, energy used and overall weight.