Study: Aluminium Cans Release Fewer Greenhouse Gases Over Their Service Life than Glass, Plastic

According to a newly-released study conducted by ICF International for the Aluminum Association, the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted in the course of transporting and refrigerating beverages in aluminium cans is lower than the amount of GHG’s released when the same quantity of beverages is transported in plastic or glass containers.

Researchers determined that GHG emissions were between 7% and 21% lower per liter than for plastic bottles, and between 35% and 49% lower than for glass containers. The variance in results is due to the size of the bottles studied and the type of refrigerator used to cool the product prior to consumption.

When comparing containers, GHG emissions for 12-oz aluminium cans was 45% lower than those for a 12-oz. glass container, and 49% lower than for a 20-oz plastic bottle when refrigerated and served in small markets and convenience stores.

The size, shape, and weight of common single-serving beverage containers was studied as well. Researchers determined that aluminium containers consistently rated higher on packaging and cooling efficiency, which, in turn, required less energy to make and keep the containers cool. Lower energy requirements naturally lead to lower GHG emissions per unit.

“As the world focuses on low-carbon solutions, it is important to understand where the opportunities are to make a real difference,” said President and CEO of the Aluminum Association Heidi Brock. “The study underscores the advantages of the aluminum can when it comes to sustainability.”

Although prior studies examined GHG in aluminium production and recycling, the study in question was designed to understand the GHG related to the phase in between those events, when the product is serving the function for which it was designed, or the “use phase” of the product.

“As more attention is paid to carbon emissions associated with the entire value chain of a product, the Aluminum Association asked ICF to look at the carbon footprint of a beverage container’s use phase,” explained ICF International’s Vice President Marian Van Pelt. “Across all scenarios studied, aluminum has lower associated use-phase emissions than comparable glass or plastic containers.”



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