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Owens-Illinois Inc., the world's largest manufacturer of glass packaging, on April 29 released the results of a comprehensive global study of the complete life cycle of glass containers. O-I's life cycle assessment (LCA), which measures the carbon emissions generated by each phase in the life of a glass container, is foundational to the company's ambitious new sustainability program.
Addressing calls from customers, consumer product makers, retailers and environmental groups for greater clarity in LCA reporting, O-I's study is the first in the packaging sector to follow the complete life of a package - from the extraction of raw materials to the reuse or recycling of the container. The model used for the study also allowed an assessment of cradle-to-cradle life cycle data on aluminum and plastic Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) containers, enabling the first true comparisons between the packaging materials.
"Widespread inconsistencies in carbon footprint assessments have made it nearly impossible to compare the impact of one packaging material with that of another," said O-I CEO Al Stroucken. "Many assessments used today only take into account a portion of the full life cycle of a product, resulting in incomplete and inaccurate data. Customers are sometimes unknowingly making packaging decisions based on incomplete data. We knew we needed to take the best and most complete approach possible to bring clarity to the conversation and provide an accurate picture of how glass compares with other packaging materials."
O-I used manufacturing and publicly available data on the production of aluminum and PET to compare glass with these other packaging materials. O-I's life cycle assessment model was tested and validated by AMR Research, a respected firm specializing in supply chain and sustainability research.
"Our assessment shows that glass clearly has the most favorable carbon footprint," said Jay Scripter, O-I vice president of sustainability. "When you look at the complete life cycle of glass, commonly held misconceptions are disproved. Food and beverage makers concerned about sustainability should choose glass."
Additional findings from the O-I life cycle assessment include:
O-I has used this study to establish aggressive sustainability goals, which the company intends to announce next week.
Millions of times a day, O-I glass containers deliver many of the world's best-known consumer products to people all around the world. With the leading position in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Latin America, O-I manufactures consumer-preferred, 100 percent recyclable glass containers that enable superior taste, purity, visual appeal and value benefits for our customers' products. Established in 1903, the company employs more than 22,000 people with 78 plants in 22 countries. In 2009, net sales were $7.1 billion.