Life Cycle Assessment of Common Plastic Packaging for Reducing Environmental Impact and Material Consumption
In order to sell production, the goods packaging must comply with the demands of the international market and the requirements of the corresponding legal acts.
In accordance with the EU regulations, member states have to ensure that a particular production packaging is used only when it complies with all the environmental regulations laid down in the EU Directives 94/62/EB and 2004/12/EB and the elaborated document system. One of the basic requirements is to produce packaging in such a way that its volume and weight are restricted to the minimum dimensions needed to meet the safety, hygiene and packaging demands acceptable for the consumer. With this aim, the main attention should be first of all focused on preventive measures. These measures refer to the reduction in the waste amount and harmful impact on the environment.
Research into that area was carried out in 2007-2008 within the framework of a joint Lithuanian-Ukrainian research and experimental development project "Study of special printing and packaging production technologies, considering their ecological and operational qualities.". It was done by a research group of the Graphic Communication Engineering Department at the Faculty of Design and Technologies, Kaunas University of Technology, together with packaging and environmental protection specialists of the University, and in cooperation with the Department of Printed Publications and Packaging of the Ukrainian Print Academy.The present paper analyses certain basic findings of the study on the possibilities of improving the ecological level of packaging within the framework of the project. It is stated that appropriate investigation of packaging, its production and application has to be performed in order to prove that the packaging was produced in compliance with preventive and other principles; this investigation is related to a wide variety of package testing, some of which has not yet got methodology acknowledged at a sufficient level (the EU or groups of countries). Therefore, one of the research directions in the above mentioned project, discussed in the present paper, is related to developing a single system, recognized throughout the EU, which would enable researchers to perform the required tests confirming the packaging quality compliance with the environmental requirements. The paper analyzes the EU prevention regulations for reducing the amount of raw material and the system of checking the realization of the requirements based on identification of critical areas, aimed at reaching the lowest possible package weight and/or volume, consequently, the minimum waste amount, without increasing the amount of faulty products and product waste. The paper presents the findings of the research obtained in assessing the life cycle, when applying the Ecoindicator'99 qualitative analysis, concerning the impact of common plastic packages and processes on the environment during manufacturing, usage and disposal. Compression test results of common type plastic packaging construction are presented, which allow us to assess the impact of the package shape and construction upon the packaging reliability and minimization of its mass.