Assessment of the environmental profile of PLA, PET and PS clamshell containers using LCA methodology

Santosh Madival, Rafael Auras, Sher Paul Singh, Ramani Narayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • 103 Citations

Abstract

Life cycle assessments of bio-based polymer resin and products historically have shown favorable results in terms of environmental impacts and energy use compared to petroleum-based products. However, calculation of these impacts always depends on the system and boundary conditions considered during the study. This paper reports a cradle-to-cradle Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of poly(lactic acid) (PLA) in comparison with poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) and poly(styrene) (PS) thermoformed clamshell containers, used for packaging of strawberries with emphasis on different end-of-life scenarios. It considers all the inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and seed corn required for the growing and harvesting of corn used for manufacturing PLA. For PET and PS, the extraction of crude oil and the entire cracking processes from crude oil through styrene and ethylene glycol and terephathalic acid are considered. Global warming, aquatic acidification, aquatic eutrophication, aquatic ecotoxicity, ozone depletion, non-renewable energy and respiratory organics, land occupation and respiratory inorganics were the selected midpoint impact categories. The geographical scope of the study reflects data from Europe, North America and the Middle East. PET showed the highest overall values for all the impact categories, mainly due to the higher weight of the containers. The main impacts to the environment were the resin production and the transportation stage of the resins and containers. This implies that the transportation stage of the package is an important contributor to the environmental impact of the packaging systems, and that it cannot be diminished.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages1183-1194
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume17
Issue number13
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2009

Profile

Lactic acid
Containers
Life cycle
resin
life cycle
Resins
Crude oil
ethylene
crude oil
Environmental impact
methodology
Styrene
acid
Packaging
environmental impact
maize
Eutrophication
Acidification
Herbicides
ozone depletion

Keywords

  • LCA
  • Packaging sustainability
  • PET
  • PLA
  • PS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Strategy and Management

Cite this

Assessment of the environmental profile of PLA, PET and PS clamshell containers using LCA methodology. / Madival, Santosh; Auras, Rafael; Singh, Sher Paul; Narayan, Ramani.

In: Journal of Cleaner Production, Vol. 17, No. 13, 09.2009, p. 1183-1194.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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