The (Plastic Packaging) Carbon Footprint

Did you know? More than 94 percent of Americans can recycle plastic bottles. Or that over 90 percent of Americans have access to recycling? What about more than 60 percent of us can recycle other plastic containers such as yogurt tubs, detergent bottles and milk jugs?

We understand the role plastic packaging plays in protecting products and their integrity, during transportation and brand identity. What we are here to help you understand is why plastic packaging is a wise environmental choice. To help you further your knowledge of this topic, we need to give you the facts on the carbon footprint of plastic packaging versus alternative packaging materials.

By definition, a carbon footprint is: the amount of carbon dioxide and other carbon compounds emitted due to the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc. (

A recent study conducted by the American Chemistry Council and the Canadian Plastics Industry Association called, Impact of Plastics Packaging on the Life Cycle Energy Consumption & Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States and Canada, assessed the energy requirements and greenhouse gas emissions of six general categories of plastic packaging in both the United States and Canada. These six categories include: caps and closures, beverage containers, shopping bags, rigid containers, stretch/shrink wrap and other flexible packaging.

The report concluded that due to the plastics’ high stretch-to-weight radio, it is a lighter and more efficient choice than alternatives. Plastic packaging leaves less materials to recover and recycle; less effort is needed to capture the value of the resource spent. Furthermore, it has made the following impact –

  • Plastic packaging is lighter to manufacture and transport
  • Today, the use of plastics in packaging across the U.S. market enables weight savings of 78% over alternatives. That is a savings of 110 billion pounds annually.
  • Other materials use 80 percent more energy – the equivalent of 91 oil supertankers
  • The potential global warming impact of other materials is 130 percent higher than plastic packaging – equivalent to adding 15.7 million more cars on our roads.

In conclusion, plastics help to significantly reduce packaging weight, resulting in more products shipped with less packaging, fewer trucks on the road, less energy used, less greenhouse gas emissions and less material to recover or recycle.

So how does plastic packaging help lower your carbon footprint? Products that are composed of plastic can be re-used multiple times; creating less carbon dioxide, consuming less energy and producing much less waste. As always, we encourage you to pay attention to recycling programs available in your neighborhood, the amount of initiative available may surprise you!


*Thank you to you the EPS Industry Alliance for the original publication of this news article. To learn more about EPS, please visit: