Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) report projects glass will “substantially” contribute to climate change and contribute more than plastic and aluminium.
ZWE says the report shows the demand for single-use beverage packaging will need to be significantly reduced. ZWE commissioned Eunomia Research & Consulting to produce the report on the net zero pathways for single-use aluminium, PET (plastic) and glass products when used in EU drinks packaging.
Following the findings on glass’s contribution to climate change, ZWE called for improvements to reuse systems and infrastructure to be accelerated as, it says, the heavier weight of glass makes it a better fit for reuse.
ZWE also claims that justifying the continued production of single-use glass beverages will become increasingly more difficult. However, the report also warns that wider drinks packaging material use – including glass, plastics and aluminium – would still need to be reduced.
Glass’s incredibly high carbon footprint makes it unsuitable for single-use applications.
Commenting on the report, Aline Maigret, Head of Policy at Zero Waste Europe, said: “This research shows the EU packaging policy is ill-equipped to deliver on the Net Zero agenda.
“Overall material use must be reduced in all packaging categories, and this speaks in favour of ambitious prevention and reuse targets. To add to this, glass’s incredibly high carbon footprint makes it unsuitable for single-use applications. The new PPWR (Proposal Packaging and Packaging Waste) should plan a material transition away from single-use in general but with a particular focus on glass and PET.”
The report found that glass, PET and aluminium are projected to overshoot their share of the carbon budget – how much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions the materials can emit while staying within 1.5°C warming before reaching net zero by 2050.
According to the report, even if beverage consumption doesn’t increase, the industry will still be producing “far too much” GHG emissions to avert the worst effects of climate change.
GHG emissions per unit of packaging material are consistently three to four times higher for glass bottles compared to aluminium and PET throughout the decarbonisation process, the report found.
The report recommends investing in technology, developing reuse systems, enhancing recycling and reducing demand for aluminium, PET and glass materials to help the beverage container industry achieve net zero in line with the 1.5°C Paris Agreement target.
Our findings indicate that justifying the continued use of single-use glass, in particular, will become progressively more difficult.
Simon Hann, Principal Consultant at Eunomia Research & Consulting and lead report author, commented: “It is crucial that we prioritise long-term decision-making and acknowledge that the process of achieving net zero is as significant as the timing.
“Our study highlights the effectiveness of employing a carbon budgeting methodology to identify the most viable approaches for attaining this goal. When examining beverage containers, it becomes evident that we need to adopt a more strategic approach to decision-making that takes into account future implications.
“Our findings indicate that justifying the continued use of single-use glass, in particular, will become progressively more difficult, despite the obstacles faced by alternative materials.”