IV - IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT
For a long time, the easy solution consisted of rejecting the
end-life products directly into the natural environment (rivers, oceans,
atmosphere...) or, indirectly, into a controlled or uncontrolled garbage dump,
with or without preliminary incineration. Development, demography and
urbanisation have multiplied the volume of waste, reduced the available space
and made «modern» Man conscious that this «easy way out» was
not compatible with his own survival.
Valorising waste has become a vital necessity, as it affects not
only the developed countries but also all of Africa.
In Europe, laws about «waste elimination» have been
set up by each member country as well as a «classification of the
institutions for the protection of the environment».
In Africa, this legislation is still embryonic, but every
citizen is now conscious of the importance of the protection of his environment.
Among the most visible wastes, food packaging represents an
important part; for any new drink packaging project, the environmental aspect
must be taken into consideration, particularly as it is becoming more and more
a way of saving money for the industrialist.
The Entrepreneur is always preoccupied by the production costs
of his products; recently, we have witnessed a significant evolution of
packaging with, at the same time, an improvement in environmental protection in
Decreased use at
the source by lightening of the product: the weight of the steel drink can
decreased by 7.1 % from 1980 to 1992, then 33% from 1992 to 1995 (the can's body
weight went down from 27 gr. to 10 gr. in 3 years!)(3).
Concerning the lightness of the packaging, the first place is
taken by the plastic materials; this lightness explains why plastic materials
are so efficient in ecological terms:
production: a 56% saving in oil can be made by replacing glass bottles with
· During transport: a further
39% saving in oil can be made by using plastic
process operations: in order to decrease the specific consumption of
materials, energy and water. During the manufacturing of monomers, water
discharge has been divided by 10, even 20 in certain units over the last 10
years. Between 1970 and 1990, improvements in the polymerisation of plastics
have reduced energy consumption by a factor of 2 or 3(4).
Re-utilisation of packaging:
this solution is the oldest one, very often developed in Africa (beer
bottles); the reality is in fact more complicated. When conducting the analysis
of the life cycle, for example, between a re-used glass bottle and a lost
plastic bottle, it is noticeable that the plastic packaging is less expensive
and pollutes less. Comparisons between lost glass and returnable glass have also
shown that the returnable system is acceptable only:
distances less than 150 km
· for less than 15
Outside these limits, the eco-balances show that consumption of
cleaning and rinsing products, energy use and the associated pollution for
returnable bottles is higher than the lighter one-way use bottles.
But, here as anywhere else, for each case a comparative analysis
must be carried out if we want to be sure we have made the right choice both in
economical and ecological terms.
On the other hand, in terms of over-packaging, the
re-utilisation of plastic crates has widely surpassed the utilisation of simple
cartons (soft-drinks, beer, dairy products, etc..) in all African countries.
The «end-of-life» value of the packaging materials
can nowadays be considered in two ways:
Recycling: the term
«partially recycled» written on the packaging means that it contains
recycled materials; the term «recyclable» means that «it can be
It is very easy to recycle waste from manufacturing, (i.e.
re-utilisation of waste from plastic bottle or film manufacturing), but it is
difficult to recycle packaging material after its utilisation in the
distribution circuit; a network composed of four stages must be set up for this
· preparation (sorting, crushing,
cleaning, drying, packaging)
into basic material (plastic granules, metallic bars, etc..)
Moreover, some packaging materials are already composed of many
other materials (i.e. plastic, metal and carton for the brick); these materials
can contaminate one another and, consequently, become more difficult to recycle.
Packaging material can also be recycled for secondary use (i.e.
manufacturing of textile fibres from plastic bottles). Industry in the developed
countries is investing heavily in order to set up new technologies to better
enhance the value of this waste. This represents a growing market; the prices
for packaging material waste are revised each month according to accurate
technical specifications; for example, HDPE can be differentiated as followed
(rate May 96 in pence/kg)(5):
a. Industrial production scraps:
· coloured HDPE
17.5 to 21.9 p.
· natural HDP
26.2 to 32.9 p.
b. Post-consumer origin:
· coloured HDPE hollow bodie
0.00 to 8.75 p.
· HDPE crates
26.2 to 30.6 p.
· Natural transparent shrink
8.75 to 15.3 p.
· Coloured shrink wrapping film
6.6 to 8.75 p.
· Natural transparent film >
8.75 to 15.4 p.
· Natural transparent film <
6.6 to 11 p.
· Mixed film
2.1 to 4.4 p.
Even if it is primarily the private sector which is interested
in this new market, recycling depends mainly on the amount which is going to be
invested by the company... and we know that there are other priorities in
Energy value: except for
glass and metal, all packaging materials can be burned. The calorific value of
polyethylene (46 kJ/kg) is higher than that of fuel-oil (44 kJ/kg). The energy
released by combustion of waste can be used either for steam production or for
electricity production; the simpler solution is cogeneration of these fluids
which guarantees their full utilisation, at any season.
Incineration with energy recovery saves the equivalent of
fuel-oil every year in France of which half is from the plastic packaging
Once more, the difficulty in Africa is the capital investment
for incinerators by local authorities, especially because such incinerators must
be equipped with energy recovery installations and smoke filters in order to
limit acid discharge (from PVC).
The simpler formula is consequently, when there is no municipal
incinerator, to burn the refuse directly in the garbage dump. The proportion of
plastic materials in household refuse, between 7 and 10% of the weight, is
useful, even essential, for good combustion. Due care should be taken, however,
with plastics which emit hydrochloric (PVC).
In brief and in terms of problems of refuse and the environment,
the emphasis is on a four-pronged approach:
the amount of material initially used.
Þ Recycle component
Þ Recover the energy
content of paper and plastic by incineration in suitably designed
Þ Finally, dispose of the
residue in hygienic and safe conditions.
In order to measure the impact of packaging on the environment,
industrialists are increasingly conducting eco-balance controls; these
analyses integrate all the parameters, from the supplier at the first level (the
raw goods) up to the end of the product's life. Consequently, the following are
· stocks of
non-renewable energetic resources (coal, gas, oil, etc.)
· mineral raw materials
· water consumption
· green-house effect
· stratospheric ozone destruction
· photochemical ozone development
· atmospheric acidification
· water eutrophisation
· limit of human toxicity in terms of air and
· discharge capacity
Taking into consideration the above mentioned elements, it is
possible to classify some fruit juice packaging materials in the following way:
(from the best to the worst)
1. the PE pouch
2. the simple gable-top carton
3. the PE & PET bottle
4. the «cartocan»
5. the PVC
6. the reusable glass bottle
7. the disposable glass bottle
the PS or PP plastic cup with alu lid
9. the alu pouch
10. the alu
11. the brick and the alu gable-top carton