Environmental Attributes as Indicators of the Life Cycle Environmental Impacts of Packaging and Food Service Ware
In 2014, Americans generated 76.7 million tons of packaging waste. Notwithstanding a packaging recycling rate of 51.5 percent, packaging still represents 22 percent of municipal solid waste sent to landfills or incinerated. Similarly, packaging makes up 20-30 percent of business and household waste in Oregon. While public concern and policy often focus on the impacts of packaging waste, packaging impacts the environment in many other ways as well. Packaging consumes raw materials and energy for production and transport which in turn generates pollution. Disposal of packaging in landfills or by incineration depletes resources as well as causes further pollution. While packaging plays an important role in minimizing waste by preventing damage to products, improvements in packaging design and informed choices of packaging material have the potential to considerably lower the negative environmental impacts of packaging. This study considers four attributes commonly used as indicators of environmental benefits from the perspective of their effect on the life cycle environmental impacts. Considering the full life cycle is important for sustainable materials management efforts addressing municipal waste.
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