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Environmental Sustainability of Packaging

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Waste and Recycling".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 March 2022) | Viewed by 41148

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Packaging and Resource Management, University of Applied Sciences, Vienna 1030, Austria
Interests: food packaging; food technology; food safety; food microbiology and safety; processing technology; storage; packaging; environmental sustainability

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Packaging and Resource Management, University of Applied Sciences, Vienna 1030, Austria
Interests: food packaging; food technology; food safety; food microbiology; processing technology; shelf life; sustainable packaging; environmental sustainability

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Packaging and Resource Management, University of Applied Sciences, Vienna 1030, Austria
Interests: food packaging; food science and technology; food microbiology; shelf life; sustainable packaging; circular economy; recycling

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The transformation of our economies toward low environmental impacts and circular solutions is on the way. Packaging is at the center of discussion, mainly in the context of the requirements of the circular economy and carbon footprint reduction.

Assessment of environmental sustainability of packaging includes all the above mentioned topics but must include further issues, such as food/product loss and waste, littering, effects on biodiversity and other factors as well to come to an overall assessment. Methods to expand life cycle assessment and recyclability testing for packaging are currently being developed, but there are no generally accepted approaches available at the moment.

This Special Issue aims to collect research papers which examine how these divergent issues could be addressed, in the context of sustainability assessment of packaging to create the methodology as a basis for better environmental decisions.

Within the framework described above, this Special Issue invites authors to contribute with original research in the following fields:

  • Reduction of environmental impacts of packaging;
  • Circularity assessment of packaging;
  • Holistic sustainability assessment of packaging;
  • Recyclability assessment of packaging;
  • Life cycle assessment of packaging;
  • Littering potential of packaging;
  • Dependence of food/product loss and waste by innovative packaging solutions;
  • Case studies in policy change arising from sustainable packaging.

In this Special Issue, the focus will be on assessment methods concerning sustainability of packaging. The research papers should report the theoretical background, methodology, results, analysis, and implications for applications of the outcomes to have a meaningful impact. At the end of the publication process, the guest editor of this Special Issue will provide an editorial to distil the key messages from the presented works into practical guidance points. A special invitation is extended to authors from across the globe so that the specifics of different regions can be addressed.

Univ. Doz. Dr. Manfred Tacker
Prof. Dr. Silvia Apprich
Prof. Dr. Victoria Krauter
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • reduction of environmental impacts
  • circularity assessment
  • holistic sustainability assessment
  • recyclability assessment
  • life cycle assessment
  • littering potential
  • dependence of food/product loss and waste by innovative packaging solutions
  • case studies in policy change arising from sustainable packaging

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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13 pages, 2065 KiB  
Article
The Relevance of Recyclability for the Life Cycle Assessment of Packaging Based on Design for Life Cycle
by Jonas Keller, Carla Scagnetti and Stefan Albrecht
Sustainability 2022, 14(7), 4076; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14074076 - 30 Mar 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 4006
Abstract
The awareness for more environmentally sustainable packaging solutions is steadily growing. With both consumers and manufacturers looking to minimize their impacts on the environment, the need for easy-to-implement and standardized measures strengthening a circular economy rises. In the research, the goal was to [...] Read more.
The awareness for more environmentally sustainable packaging solutions is steadily growing. With both consumers and manufacturers looking to minimize their impacts on the environment, the need for easy-to-implement and standardized measures strengthening a circular economy rises. In the research, the goal was to determine whether the carbon footprint and circularity of non-food plastic packaging can be improved by simple design changes. The results should then lead to design recommendations, providing a Design for Life Cycle approach. The methodology of the study was to conceptually design a single-use plastic packaging with attributes having positive and negative effects on recyclability. Herein, only design characteristics from products obtainable on the market were regarded. Moreover, a comparison over existing recyclability assessment methods is given. The recyclability was then determined with the selected approach by Cyclos HTP, and a reference calculation was conducted. Life Cycle Assessments were implemented for 14 packaging designs using the GaBi software and the Environmental Footprint method. The results showed that dark color, material compounds, insoluble adhesives, and large labels result in lower recyclability of the single-use packaging. The impacts on climate change range from 0.13 kg CO2-equivalent emissions (100% recyclability) to 0.21 kg CO2-equivalent emissions (0% recyclability) per packaging, showing that lower recyclability leads to a larger carbon footprint in all assessed scenarios. Concluding, the research demonstrated that by applying Design for Life Cycle measures, impacts on climate change can be reduced. Lastly, design recommendations for decision makers are outlined. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Sustainability of Packaging)
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10 pages, 412 KiB  
Article
Safety Evaluation of Polyethylene Terephthalate Chemical Recycling Processes
by Frank Welle
Sustainability 2021, 13(22), 12854; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132212854 - 20 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2885
Abstract
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the main packaging materials for beverage bottles. Even if this polymer is good to recycle, mechanical recycling processes need a well-sorted input fraction. For less-sorted PET packaging, or even non-food input sources, chemical recycling seems to be [...] Read more.
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the main packaging materials for beverage bottles. Even if this polymer is good to recycle, mechanical recycling processes need a well-sorted input fraction. For less-sorted PET packaging, or even non-food input sources, chemical recycling seems to be a solution to increase PET recycling. For post-consumer recyclates in packaging applications, it is essential that the safety of the recyclates is guaranteed, and the consumers’ health protected. For mechanical recycling processes, evaluation criteria are already established. For chemical recycling processes, however, such evaluation criteria are only roughly available. This study evaluated the safety of the chemical recycling process similar to the approach of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, due to the lack of information about the contamination level of the input materials for the chemical recycling process, the evaluation was adapted. In addition, the evaluation should be performed separately for the depolymerisation and for the repolymerisation steps. However, due to the high cleaning efficiencies of both steps, the evaluation can focus on the repolymerisation. This simplifies the assessment of the chemical recycling processes considerably. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Sustainability of Packaging)
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15 pages, 1334 KiB  
Article
Circularity Study on PET Bottle-To-Bottle Recycling
by Elisabeth Pinter, Frank Welle, Elisa Mayrhofer, Andreas Pechhacker, Lukas Motloch, Vera Lahme, Andy Grant and Manfred Tacker
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7370; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137370 - 1 Jul 2021
Cited by 47 | Viewed by 16102
Abstract
With the European Green Deal, the importance of recycled products and materials has increased. Specifically, for PET bottles, a high content of recycled material (rPET) is demanded by the industry and consumers. This study was carried out in a lab environment replicating real-life [...] Read more.
With the European Green Deal, the importance of recycled products and materials has increased. Specifically, for PET bottles, a high content of recycled material (rPET) is demanded by the industry and consumers. This study was carried out in a lab environment replicating real-life industrial processes, to investigate the possible impacts on rPET quality over eleven recycling loops, aiming to use high amounts of rPET repetitively. A cycle included extrusion, solid state polycondensation (SSP), a second extrusion to simulate bottle production, hot wash and a drying step. 75% rPET and 25% virgin PET were extruded in eleven cycles to simulate a recycling and production process. Samples underwent chemical, physical and biological analysis. The quality of the rPET material was not adversely affected. Parameters such as coloring, intrinsic viscosity, concentration of critical chemicals and presence of mutagenic contaminants could be positively assessed. The quality of the produced material was likely influenced by the input material’s high standard. A closed loop PET bottle recycling process using an rPET content of up to 75% was possible when following the proposed process, indicating that this level of recycled content can be maintained indefinitely without compromising quality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Sustainability of Packaging)
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Review

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26 pages, 2646 KiB  
Review
Recycling of Post-Consumer Packaging Materials into New Food Packaging Applications—Critical Review of the European Approach and Future Perspectives
by Roland Franz and Frank Welle
Sustainability 2022, 14(2), 824; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14020824 - 12 Jan 2022
Cited by 41 | Viewed by 9675
Abstract
The European strategy for plastics, as part of the EU’s circular economy action plan, should support the reduction in plastic waste. One key element in this action plan is the improvement of the economics and quality of recycled plastics. In addition, an important [...] Read more.
The European strategy for plastics, as part of the EU’s circular economy action plan, should support the reduction in plastic waste. One key element in this action plan is the improvement of the economics and quality of recycled plastics. In addition, an important goal is that by 2030, all plastics packaging placed on the EU market must either be reusable or can be recycled in a cost-effective manner. This means that, at the end, a closed-loop recycling of food packaging materials should be established. However, the use of recyclates must not result in less severe preventive consumer protection of food packaging materials. This may lead to a conservative evaluation of authorities on post-consumer recyclates in food packaging applications. On the other hand, over-conservatism might over-protect the consumer and generate insurmountable barriers to the application of post-consumer recyclates for food packaging and, hence, counteract the targets of circular economy. The objective of this review is to provide an insight into the evaluation of post-consumer recyclates applied in direct contact to food. Safety assessment criteria as developed by the European Food Safety Authority EFSA will be presented, explained, and critically discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Sustainability of Packaging)
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Other

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21 pages, 3068 KiB  
Systematic Review
A Systematic Literature Review on Environmental Sustainability Issues of Flexible Packaging: Potential Pathways for Academic Research and Managerial Practice
by Amna Farrukh, Sanjay Mathrani and Aymen Sajjad
Sustainability 2022, 14(8), 4737; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14084737 - 15 Apr 2022
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 7171
Abstract
The purpose of this review is to investigate environmental sustainability issues of the flexible packaging (FP) segment of the packaging industry. Increasingly, waste and pollution caused by FP have become a significant challenge for global sustainable development. Prior research studies have examined a [...] Read more.
The purpose of this review is to investigate environmental sustainability issues of the flexible packaging (FP) segment of the packaging industry. Increasingly, waste and pollution caused by FP have become a significant challenge for global sustainable development. Prior research studies have examined a diverse set of environmental challenges associated with FP, albeit, in a fragmented way. There is a paucity of research exploring and synthesizing the environmental burden of FP in an integrated fashion. To bridge this knowledge gap, we conducted a systematic literature review (SLR) to identify, synthesize, and analyze the environmental sustainability issues of FP utilizing the SCOPUS database. Based on an in-depth critical analysis of selected articles, this paper provides novel insights to scholars, practitioners, and policymakers for developing an improved understanding of environmental issues of the FP sector. This paper promotes academic scholarship and strengthens managerial practice in addressing the environmental sustainability challenges of FP. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environmental Sustainability of Packaging)
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