• Gary Robinson

Synaptic Connections Newsletter 2019 Week#42

October 14, 2019 www.Synapticpackaging.com Image - Waterfall, Montana

Week#42 Good morning!  I hope you were able to get outside this weekend to enjoy some lovely fall weather.  This is the season for outdoor festivals, live music, or a hike in the woods.  Activities like these can really make the season special.

This morning we are jumping into our discussion on Big Data Convergence on Sustainability.  Today, we are going to start with the basics, the LCA, or Life-Cycle Analysis.  A life-cycle analysis is intended to study a given product from creation (cradle) to disposal (grave) and report the environmental impact of that product.  Some studies will even go cradle to cradle to show the impacts of re-processing the material.

LCA’s analyze emissions and raw material consumption.  They often are totally silent on other critical attributes for end-of-life such as low recycle rates, bio-accumulation of plastics, consumer behavior, and contaminates in the recycling stream.  For these reasons it is good to consider LCA as a tool for a specific job, however it is not an absolute on environmental impacts.

LCA tools are complex and are backed by data engines, often proprietary.  These data engines map a portfolio of materials and the associated manufacturing processes.  Those profiles are often industry aggregates, or can be manufacturer specific.  The sharing of manufacturer specific LCA data is an encouraged practice.

The LCA is highly complex, is very specific, and often a comparative tool.  When running an LCA, there will be many choices to define the model criteria.  Each choice will effect the results of the LCA.  Let’s explore some of the ways the LCA is used, and gain understanding on when to use the right tool for the right job.

Internally - companies can profile their internal operations to secure a summary of their environmental footprint.  This is an excellent example of a good use for an LCA, and allows companies to measure year-over-year changes.

Externally - companies can profile their products vs. their competitors to use information as a marketing tool to promote their product.  Due to the complexities of LCA and the layered number of assumptions, this approach can often be highly manipulated to script a desired story line.  While the results presented might be truthful, and factual, it requires a discerning individual to know if the story is being manipulated.

To keep things brief, let’s take a look at some of the biggest drivers of LCA results in consumer packaging.  These points will provide some insights on how to improve your LCA score, and it will help you be a more informed buyer when someone seeks to sell you a solution on the basis of LCA data.

1. Material Reduction: Is a great way to improve your LCA score.  Using less material drives the LCA data metrics down.

2. Local Manufacturing:  Making a product closer to the location of consumption lowers your LCA.  This is influenced by the densification of the packaging material and the associated transit emissions.  A great example is the Form-Fill-Seal (FFS) package vs. the pre-formed bottle.  An FFS package will win on LCA almost every time.

3. Cube Optimization:  If you can design a package for a tighter fit, then you improve the density and units produced per emissions generated is greatly improved.

LCA is a topic that we can talk about for hours.  It is such a big topic, it is challenging to make a quick summary for Synaptic Connections this morning.  Let’s close with this simple thought….. you need to use the Right Tool for the Right Job.  Don’t use a hammer for a screw :-).  If you aren’t certain, then give me a call and I’ll be happy to help.  Have a great week!

Packaging Sustainability//

ReThink Waste//

Emerging Energy//

The purpose of this newsletter is to stimulate innovative thoughts and constructive dialogue through the lens of sustainability.  New subscribers can send an e-mail to the link below to sign-up. 

Contact Us