Packaging for transport purposes made of paper is good and plastic is bad? Reusable is better than disposable? Opinions differ widely when it comes to the carbon footprint of packaging. That is why Ecocool Ltd provided information on the CO2 footprint of refrigerated and insulated packaging at the 6th Bremerhaven Business Dialogue on August 19, 2023. The packaging manufacturer from Bremerhaven gave important impulses for more sustainability in the supply chains. The event at Timeport was held under the motto "Climate Neutrality 2045 - Challenges for Business."
The event has been organized by Bremerhaven's business development agency BIS, together with the city and the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. While Germany wants to become climate-neutral by 2045, the state of Bremen has set itself 2038 as a target for this. In a series of lectures, Ecocool and other companies presented innovative business models to achieve the decarbonization goals. Companies such as Engenius, Deutsche Windtechnik AG and Kraftblock presented innovative business models for a more climate-friendly economy - from mobility and logistics to construction. Ecocool showed several innovative packaging solutions based on ecologically sustainable materials.
In his presentation, Ecocool Managing Director Dr. Florian Siedenburg appealed to the 80 or so forum participants to "take a more differentiated view of packaging". He called for a more holistic view when assessing the environmental impact. Using easy-to-understand examples, Dr. Siedenburg explained that in the food segment, for example, food waste has a far greater impact on the CO2 balance than packaging materials.
Ecocool CEO Dr. Siedenburg during his presentation.
Challenges: Packaging waste and CO2 emissions
Speaking about packaging for transport logistics, Dr. Florian Siedenburg challenged the audience to think about the real core issue. "The reduction of packaging waste is in the focus of the general public, and at the same time the reduction of CO2 emissions has great importance for the achievement of climate targets. We have to ask ourselves which problem is more pressing," Siedenburg said. "A differentiated view is necessary for this."
The Ecocool managing director gave examples of this. "Packaging is essential and fulfills a sustainability function" because it protects food from spoilage, for example. Therefore, he said, the relatively small carbon footprint of packaging materials should be considered against the CO2 emissions from spoiled goods and food waste. "Around 88 million tons of food waste is generated in the EU every year - 40 percent of which hasn't even made it to the supermarket." Here, packaging will help to reduce the proportion of damaged goods, he says. But a differentiated view is also necessary when it comes to packaging material, he says. A paper bag from the supermarket has to be used three times for it to be on a par with a plastic bag in terms of its carbon footprint. "And a jute bag even has to be used 131 times to create the CO2 balance of a plastic bag."
A more differentiated view is needed
Siedenburg backed up his pleas with another example: the return of a 300 kg air freight container would amount to up to 1,500 kg of CO2 - compared to 4 kg of CO2 for the production of a disposable thermo hood. "In this respect, a differentiated view on the part of the shipping agent is necessary above all with regard to reducing CO2 emissions, in order to select the best solution economically and ecologically with packaging that meets the requirements. However, this differentiated consideration leads to enormous additional planning and logistical effort, which is often shied away from for reasons of efficiency." The Ecocool managing director concludes that becoming sustainable in the packaging industry is a long but worthwhile journey.