EU single-use beverage container industry unlikely to achieve climate targets
Brussels, 22 June 2023
A new study into the decarbonisation of single-use drinks packaging has found that the European beverage container industry is unlikely to meet 1.5oC climate targets and is at risk of missing Net Zero without swift intervention.
Zero Waste Europe commissioned Eunomia Research & Consulting to investigate the net zero pathways for aluminium, PET (plastic), and glass products when used in EU drinks packaging.
The ‘Decarbonisation of single-use beverage packaging: Investigating 1.5C future by 2050’ report found that all three materials are projected to exceed their allocated carbon budget by at least 50%. Single-use glass is the most significant contributor (+200% exceedance) followed by PET (+150%) and aluminium (50%). Collectively, they face significant challenges to stop or reduce the emission of global greenhouse gases (GHGs) as the result of their manufacture – posing a risk to achieving Net Zero emissions by 2050.
Key findings of the report:
- Even with no growth in beverage container consumption, the industry is likely to significantly overshoot the proposed cumulative emissions budget aimed at staying within 1.5°C warming.
- All three beverage container materials face significant challenges in decarbonisation:
- Aluminium – transitioning the smelting process to run on green energy will take substantial investments due to its high energy requirement.
- PET – a fundamental shift in the value chain to bio-based feedstock is necessary, but technical hurdles currently exist and may conflict with the fossil-focused nature of the industry.
- Glass – electrifying gas furnaces will require either a costly and complete infrastructure upgrade or a gradual replacement of legacy systems. Despite efforts, glass manufacturing will continue to have high energy consumption.
- GHG emissions per unit of packaging material are consistently 3-4 times higher for glass bottles compared to aluminium and PET throughout the decarbonisation pathway.
- Investment in technology, developing reuse systems, enhanced recycling, and reducing demand for aluminium, PET and glass materials are recommended as priorities to help the beverage container industry to achieve their net zero target.
The research and its findings have further relevance in the context of the current revision of the EU Packaging & Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR).
Aline Maigret, Head of Policy at Zero Waste Europe, said: “This research shows the EU packaging policy is ill-equipped to deliver on the Net Zero agenda. Overall material use must be reduced in all packaging categories, and this speaks in favour of ambitious prevention and reuse targets. To add to this, glass’ incredibly high carbon footprint makes it unsuitable for single-use applications. The new PPWR should plan a material transition away from single-use in general, but with a particular focus on glass and PET”.
Simon Hann, Principal Consultant at Eunomia Research & Consulting and lead report author said: “It is crucial that we prioritise long-term decision-making and acknowledge that the process of achieving Net Zero is as significant as the timing. Our study highlights the effectiveness of employing a carbon budgeting methodology to identify the most viable approaches for attaining this goal. When examining beverage containers, it becomes evident that we need to adopt a more strategic approach to decision-making that takes into account future implications. Our findings indicate that justifying the continued use of single-use glass, in particular, will become progressively more difficult, despite the obstacles faced by alternative materials.”
Notes to Editors
In the first known study of its kind focusing on the EU beverage packaging industry, the materials were analysed on how they might decarbonise over the next 30 years, rather than simply looking at what it taking place today.
The report builds upon Eunomia Research & Consulting’s previous investigation into materials decarbonisation pathways “Is Net Zero Enough for the Material Production Sector?”
Media Outreach Contacts
Aline Maigret, Head of Policy at Zero Waste Europe, [email protected]
Ana Oliveira, Head of Communications at Zero Waste Europe, [email protected]
About Eunomia Research & Consulting
Eunomia is an independent sustainability consultancy driven by a genuine passion to make a positive change to the clients we work with and the communities they operate in.
We are committed to finding solutions to better protect the planet, while supporting the wider aims and needs of our clients.
As an established leading independent consultancy, clients can have complete confidence that consultants will offer evidence led solutions based on robust, impartial thinking that offer both pragmatic and positive outcomes. For more information about Eunomia, please visit www.eunomia.co.uk
About Zero Waste Europe
Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) is the European network of communities, local leaders, experts, and change agents working towards the prevention and elimination of waste in our society. We advocate for sustainable systems; for the redesign of our relationship with resources; and for a global shift towards environmental justice, accelerating a just transition towards zero waste for the benefit of people and the planet. www.zerowasteeurope.eu