We’ve been researching sustainable packaging for over 20 years, and we were skeptical about the environmental benefits of using Ingeo™ PLA. So we asked Dr. Roland Geyer, a highly regarded life-cycle assessment expert at the University of California, Santa Barbara, to compare the environmental impact of plant-based packaging, from cornfield to landfill, to that of our existing polystyrene (PS) packaging.
His analysis compared Ingeo™ PLA to Polystyrene (PS) over the life cycle of the container, which is referred to as “cradle to grave.” The study found that the PLA uses less energy and releases lower greenhouse gas emissions than PS over its lifecycle. Since PLA is made from corn, which captures carbon as it grows, it releases 48% less carbon than PS releases into the atmosphere throughout its entire lifecycle.
For Stonyfield, this means that by using the plant-based plastic instead of PS for our multipacks, we will reduce our carbon footprint by 1,875 metric tons of CO2 a year. That’s equal to the CO2 emissions from 4,360 barrels of oil, or the greenhouse gases from the energy used in 160 homes for an entire year.
In fact, this one change in packaging reduces the total global warming impact of Stonyfield’s packaging by 9%.
The study compared other impact areas including water use, energy and human toxicity. View the full study.
Until now, polystyrene has been the only plastic suitable for the machines we use to form, fill and seal multipacks. If all dairy companies in the United States follow suit and replace their polystyrene containers with plant-based plastics, carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by 671,234 metric tons a year. That’s equal to the emissions from 1.5 million barrels of oil.
We’d like to see that happen, so we’re making our sustainable packaging research available to any other company that wants it.