DOI: 10.3390/su152316448 ISSN: 2071-1050

Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Reusable and Disposable Distribution Packaging for Fresh Food

Soo Y. Kim, Dong H. Kang, Korakot Charoensri, Jae R. Ryu, Yang J. Shin, Hyun J. Park
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction

In this study, a comparative life cycle assessment of three different products with reusable and single-use packaging for fresh food distribution was conducted. For the reusable packaging, one utilized a vacuum insulation panel (VIP) box made of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (r-PET), while the other employed expanded polyethylene (EPE). For comparison, a disposable box made of widely used expanded polystyrene (EPS) was selected. We analyzed the environmental impacts of production, transportation, reprocessing (reused boxes), and disposal in 18 impact categories. As a result of analyzing the actual reuse of 300 rounds of fresh food, the cumulative global warming potential (GWP) values of the VIP and EPE box were 136.58 kg carbon dioxide (CO2) eq and 281.72 kg CO2 eq, respectively, 87% and 74% lower than those of the EPS box. Additionally, the GWP values were the same as those of the EPS boxes when the VIP and EPE boxes were reused 7 and 12 times, respectively. The best-case scenario was revealed when the reusable packaging with the r-PET VIP was compared with the EPE and EPS boxes. In conclusion, reusable packaging is expected to contribute to the reduction in the environmental burden and better suit global environmental requirements for sustainable food distribution and related industries. In addition, our findings can inform policy and industry decisions to promote more sustainable practices in the food industry, contributing to the advancement of sustainability in this field.

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