Report calls several studies that favour single-use packaging over reuse biased



Several studies that favour single-use takeaway packaging over reusable alternatives “lack transparency” and have “implicit biases”, according to a new report by Reloop and Zero Waste Europe (ZWE).

The report “Unveiling the Complexities: Exploring LCAs of Reusable Packaging in the Take-Away Sector” claims that the studies are “biased” against reuse due to funders’ interests, cherrypicked scenarios and false assumptions.

The report focuses on Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) from the European Paper Packaging Alliance (EPPA), McDonald’s and the University of Michigan. ZWE says the three LCAs were chosen to display the spectrum of methodology and transparency across published studies looking at reusable takeaway packaging.

An LCA is a way to assess environmental impacts from all stages of a product’s life from material acquisition, production, use, end-of-life treatment, recycling and disposal.

The report found the EPPA study “relied heavily on assumptions which have weak evidence bases”. It also called the conclusions “biased” in favour of single-use because it only considered the current take-make-waste linear economic structure rather than what could be achieved in a more circular economy.

ZWE says the authors of the EPPA report base the conclusion that reuse systems are unlikely to outperform single-use options on a comparison to a reuse system that is “clearly suboptimal”.

It’s clear that some of the industry-funded studies on reusable takeaway packaging are flawed.

The report claims that the McDonald’s study doesn’t provide enough information on its methodology, data or assumptions, which limits the ability of any meaningful analysis or review of its findings.

The third study from the University of Michigan provides a much more “robust framework” for constructive discussions around reusable takeaway packaging, the report says. It also highlights that Michigan’s study was not industry-funded but the report found it to be lacking in transparency and based on assumptions.

Larissa Copello, Packaging and Reuse Policy Officer at ZWE, commented: “It’s clear that some of the industry-funded studies on reusable takeaway packaging are flawed and did not explore the full potential of reuse systems for packaging.

“There’s no such a thing as a sustainable material, but rather a sustainable system. When it comes to reusable packaging, a key element for efficient systems is pooling systems for reuse, under which the ownership of the packaging is shared among the participants as well as all the logistics and infrastructure, including washing facilities, collections points, etc.

“The revision of the PPWR should support such well-designed systems to be scaled up across Europe, through mandatory reuse targets and economic incentives for reuse.”

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