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Researchers say PET is greenest beer pkg option.

A PET bottle is the most environmentally friendly format for beer according to new research from packaging firm Sidel.

A life cycle analysis (LCA), presented at last week's Brau Beviale show in Nuremberg, Germany, compared the environmental impact of non-returnable glass bottles, aluminium and steel cans and PET bottles.

The research, conducted by Sidel, was based on the activities of the Martens Brewery in Bocholt, Belgium. Sidel makes glass bottles, plastic bottles (PET, HDPE and PP) and beverage cans.

The LCA was conducted according to ISO standards, and was reviewed by life cycle analysis experts.

The study examined beer that was brewed and packaged by Martens in Belgium, and then transported to the U.K. for sale and consumption.

The study examined several packaging options:

* PET bottles with ACTIS coating.

* Glass long-neck bottles.

* aluminum cans.

* steel cans.

The study looked at the production of beer and packaging, taking into account production of raw materials and ingredients and the energy consumption of the brewery; the production of primary packaging for each type of package; production of secondary packaging; transport; distribution and energy costs.

The study found that steel and PET had lower greenhouse gas emission numbers. "For the impact on greenhouse gases, we observe that steel cans are the best primary packaging option," the study concluded, "PET is quite close to steel and glass is the worst."

When it comes to primary energy, glass again was the loser. "For the consumption of primary energy," the study noted, "glass is the worst while steel is the best. Aluminum cans demand slightly less energy than PET bottles, though the difference is not large enough to justify a clear preference among those two packaging materials. The slight advantage of aluminium cans can be explained by its favorable recycling rate. Recycling aluminum saves considerable energy, and the recycling rate for aluminum in the U.K. (48,5%) is better than that of PET (20%)."

For water consumption, glass was the largest water consumer, but all were close, since beer production was the greatest consumer of water, and all the packages contained beer.

A major conclusion of the study was that reducing the environmental impact of beer production itself would have the greatest impact. Production comparisons were done using two Martens breweries, an older plant that produced a German-style beer, and a newer plant that produces both German and Belgian beers. Improvements at the new plant reduced greenhouse gases by 17% over the full lifecycle.

Another major conclusion was that recycling rate is an important parameter, especiually for aluminum cans. Conclusions on this would differ, depending on the country studied. In Germany, recycling rates are 70% for PET, 89% for cans and 82% for glass. In the UK, it was 20% for PET and about 40% for glass and aluminum.

The role that electricity generation played in the life cycle was found to be an important factor. Glass bottles won out in this area, followed by steel cans, aluminum cans, and then PET.

Overall, however, PET chosen as the best option, in part because the packaging is light in weight compared to cans. The study concluded that the environmental performance of PET was comparable to steel, and concluded that a half-liter PET bottle that weighed 20g or less was "the preferred overall choice in terms of climate change".

Luc Dusoutter, Sidel sustainability officer, said the report had shown that beer production and primary packaging had the biggest environmental impact, making recycling rates an important factor.

"Where aluminium recycling rates are high, for example, aluminium may be a good choice for packaging beer," he said.

The LCA took data from Martens Breweries and was collected by research firm RDC-Environment on behalf of Sidel. Sidel says it has developed a tool that firms can use to assess the impact of their own production and disposal routes.

The firm said that the results of the study would not mean it would be abandoning other materials in favour of PET. "We will continue to develop products across the board," said Marcel Krauth, head of Sidel's beer division.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Nov 24, 2008
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