New Study Confirms IFCO Reusable Plastic Containers are the Sustainable Choice for Fresh Produce Packaging

Peer-Reviewed Report Shows RPCs Outperform Corrugated Boxes in Eight Key Environmental Indicators

IFCO has released the results of its updated report, Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Reusable Plastic Container and Display- and Non-Display-Ready Corrugated Containers Used for Fresh Produce Applications (LCA), showing IFCO Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) deliver greater environmental savings for delivering fresh produce in North America than the use of single-use corrugated fiber containers.

“IFCO has a strong commitment to the environment, and IFCO RPCs have developed a well-deserved reputation as a sustainable option for fresh produce packaging,” said Daniel Walsh, president, IFCO North America.  “This study shows that RPCs – across-the-board – are the most sustainable choice for fresh food packaging compared to corrugated boxes.”

The LCA reviewed the environmental impact of RPCs and Display-Ready Corrugated Fiber Containers (DRCs) and Non-Display-Ready Corrugated Fiber Containers (NDCs) for packaging apples, bell peppers, carrots, grapes, iceberg lettuce, onions, oranges, peaches/nectarines, tomatoes and strawberries.

The study concludes, “In all eight examined environmental indicators (energy demand, global warming potential, ozone depletion potential, water consumption, acidification, eutrophication, photochemical smog, solid waste generation), the IFCO RPCs, as defined in this analysis, provide greater environmental savings for delivering produce in North America than does the use of fiber corrugated containers for these commodities.”

The 2017 LCA shows, compared to display-ready corrugated boxes, RPCs:

  • Produce 31% less global warming potential (carbon dioxide equivalents)
  • Produce 86% less solid waste
  • Consume 80% less water
  • Require 64% less energy
  • Contribute significantly less environmental pollution (85% lower eutrophication, 78% lower ozone depletion, 66% lower acidification, and 42% less photochemical smog)

The LCA  is an update to the IFCO/Franklin Associates LCA released in April 2016.  Key modeling data – including the recycled content for corrugated boxes used for fresh produce packaging – were evaluated and updated as appropriate to ensure the 2017 LCA was based on current and up-to-date information.

The LCA was conducted by Franklin Associates (Franklin), a nationally-recognized life cycle assessment and solid waste management consulting firm, in accordance with ISO standards 14040 and 14044.  Franklin looked at the sustainable attributes of RPCs, display-ready corrugated fiber containers (DRCs) and non-display-ready corrugated fiber containers (NDCs) used to package, transport and display fresh produce. Results were peer-reviewed by packaging and LCA experts, including experts from the School of Packaging at Michigan State University, the Center for Sustainable Systems School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, and an LCA consultant who is a former U.S. EPA LCA manager and current editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.

“IFCO’s share and reuse business model is an important part of the drive toward a Circular Economy that results in zero emissions and zero waste.  We will continue to advance the sustainability of our products and operations in the months and years ahead so that we can preserve the world’s natural resources for future generations,” concluded Mr. Walsh.