Assessing the Sustainability Benefits: Flexible Drink Pouch — A LCA Case Study

The Flexible Packaging Association’s (FPA) report, A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World, highlights the sustainability benefits of flexible packaging. FPA commissioned PTIS, LLC to provide a holistic view on the sustainability benefits that flexible packaging offers; provide foresight into future sustainability implications for flexible packaging; and develop six Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) case studies comparing flexible packaging to other packaging formats across a range of products.

The LCA case studies were developed using the EcoImpact-COMPASS® LCA software, which allows for quick life cycle comparisons between different packaging formats. The results from the case studies show that flexible packaging has more favorable environmental attributes for carbon impact, fossil fuel usage, water usage, product-to-package ratio, as well as the amount of packaging material going to the landfill when compared to other packaging formats for the same products.

Beverages are sold in a wide variety of packaging formats based on their volume, content, usage, and audience, among many other considerations. Beverages are also heavy, requiring a package format that is robust enough to contain the volume without breaking during transport or usage. This LCA case study factsheet included/evaluated two popular beverage formats: a flexible drink pouch and a glass bottle, which many incorrectly assume to be more sustainable. The full LCA case study also compares the flexible drink pouch to a PET bottle, aluminum can, and a composite carton, and is available in FPA’s report, A Holistic View of the Role of Flexible Packaging in a Sustainable World, beginning on page 159.

The flexible drink pouch, by far, has lower water consumption than the glass bottle because of the small amount of water required for the laminating process. The glass bottle uses large amounts of water during manufacturing as part of the cooling process.

The flexible drink pouch has lower overall greenhouse gas emissions because of its light weight and overall efficient material and manufacturing process. The glass bottle has significantly higher emissions than the flexible drink pouch because of the weight of the glass bottle.

The flexible drink pouch also comes out with more favorable results for fossil fuel consumption. The glass bottle requires more material to hold the same amount of product and has a more energy-intensive material production process.

When considering the amount of packaging that ends up as municipal solid waste based on current recycling rates, the glass bottle results in more material ending up in municipal solid waste than the flexible drink pouch (1,213%).

The results of the data comparing the different juice packaging formats show that the flexible drink pouch has a number of significant environmental benefits (fossil fuel usage, carbon impact, and water consumption) over the glass bottle, a format thought by many consumers to be more sustainable. The flexible drink pouch also results in much less municipal solid waste than the glass bottle.

The case study can be downloaded by clicking here.

For more information on the case study and the sustainability benefits of flexible packaging, visit www.flexpack.org, or contact FPA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..