What is the carbon footprint of food and packaging, or what the climate-optimal packaging should look like, were the main topics of discussion of the INICIATIVA21 expert group.
The INICIATIVA21 Expert Working Group is organised by the Czech Association of Circular Economy (CAObH) www.caobh.cz. It is composed of representatives of food, drug and cosmetic manufacturers, including Nestlé, Madeta, Olma, Danone, Procter & Gamble. Expert opinions are complemented by representatives of the Association of Czech Traditional Trade, the State Institute of Health and EKO-KOM.
"We are currently working with our association members on appropriate solutions to reduce negative environmental impacts and waste. Packaging waste is the main source of municipal waste, accounting for 1.23 million tonnes per year. 76% of this used packaging is sorted and sent for recovery or re-sorting on re-sorting lines. The sorting rate for recycling of this non-plastic packaging is 96%. For plastics it is around 40%." says Miloš Kužvart, Executive Director of ČAObH and adds: "The design of the packaging is extremely important not only for maintaining the quality of the product, but also for easy recycling and meeting all required standards at the end of the product's life cycle."
The topic of packaging materials and the subsequent treatment of packaging waste is an important topic for all members of the INICIATIVA21 group. Producers who put their products into circulation have to pay a set fee for the packaging they use, which is collected after use by the collective system EKO-KOM, then sorted and preferably recycled. The more easily the packaging is recycled, i.e. reused, the lower the fees paid by producers. The aim is therefore to use packaging that is both functional in all its parameters and cost-effective for both producers and consumers. Each consumer pays a fee for the collection and further processing of packaging waste from the product in the price of the product purchased.
However, great recyclability of packaging is not necessarily ideal if it leads to an increase in food waste. For example, if it would lead to a shorter warranty period or if it would lead to higher CO2 production during distribution due to weight or volume.
Consideration should also be given to the fact that an increase in the percentage of collection of a particular packaging may not be the most appropriate if it results in more CO2 being generated than is saved by the increase in recycling or recovery itself. If we focus only on the technological process of recycling the packaging, then it may not be ideal if more CO2 is generated by recycling than would be saved by energy recovery.
The climate-optimal envelope is the one that leaves behind the lowest carbon footprint. This means the lowest possible CO2 production during the production of the packaging and its transport to the food or cosmetics manufacturer and then during the transport of the product to the home. We also add the CO2 production in the production of food that has become food waste. The total adds up the CO2 produced or saved in the management of packaging waste.
Manufacturers can already use the information to assess the sustainability impact of packaging in terms of CO2 production. Everyone has information on their own production, logistics, packaging functionality, which is sufficient to estimate CO2 production along the entire chain up to the household. However, they may not have sufficient information on the impact of packaging on the generation of food waste directly in the household. They also do not yet have sufficient information to estimate CO2 production during the management of packaging waste. Currently, manufacturers receive information on CO2 savings due to recycling and recovery of their packaging waste as a total for all packaging placed on the market.
INICIATIVA21 agreed that the goal is to create a more detailed map that will allow manufacturers to assess the impact of their packaging change decision on "their" CO2 production, and thus make an informed assessment of the sustainability impact of the change.