Climate Change Benefits of Industrial and Transport Packaging Reuse (Revised 2011)
Nearly two decades ago, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the United States joined other nations in approving the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). The FCCC represented the first international effort to develop a comprehensive approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combat the threat of global warming. Not long thereafter, the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, establishing greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for industrialized countries. Although approximately 100 nations have ratified the Kyoto Protocol, some of the world’s most developed countries, including the U.S. and Australia, have not done so.
Despite not having signed the Kyoto Protocol, the U.S. has evolved a proactive approach to climate change issues, involving governmental and private sector initiatives. At the federal level, the government supports stronger regulations on large emitters of greenhouse gases (e.g., utilities) and a range of volunteer strategies that help reduce GHG emissions (e.g., building codes, EPA’s “Climate VISION” initiative).
Various federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, have developed targeted programs to promote and encourage private sector greenhouse gas reduction efforts. Chief among these are EPA’s “Climate Leaders” program and DOE’s Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gasses Program, established under Section 1605(b) of the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
Working in cooperation with EPA, more than half the states have established Climate Change Action Plans establishing greenhouse gas mitigation policies and programs.
Private sector initiatives focusing on greenhouse gas emission reduction programs are proliferating. Industry organizations representing automobile manufacturers, chemical producers, petroleum manufacturers and iron and steel producers, have established voluntary GHG emission reduction targets for its members.
These and other organizations have accepted the principle that excessive levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will negatively impact the environment and, over time, reduce national and international economic development opportunities. They also believe that a voluntary response is the best way to address greenhouse gas issues at this time.
Reusable Packaging Industry Initiative
The Reusable Industrial Packaging Association (RIPA) promotes policies and practices that encourage additional use and reuse of reusable industrial and transport packaging. Packaging reuse reduces greenhouse gas emissions and RPCCA seeks to encourage greater use of such packagings by corporations where practical and feasible.
What is Reusable Industrial and Transport Packaging?
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has adopted the following definition of the term “industrial package:”
Industrial package – a package used for the transportation or storage of commodities, the contents of which are not meant for retail sale without being repackaged.*
This definition does not address issues of material of construction and capacity, since the capacities of packagings used for industrial purposes can range from a few ounces to many thousands of gallons, and such packages are produced from a wide range of materials, including metal, wood and plastics.
Transport packaging is defined by ASTM as:
Packaging intended to contain one or more articles or packages or bulk material for the purposes of handling and/or distribution.
This definition encompasses such items as plastic trays and pallets produced from plastic or wood.
How Does Industrial and Transport Packaging Reuse Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
The reuse of industrial and transport packaging is one of the most environmentally efficient practices available to businesses. Industrial and transport packaging reuse:
- Reduces energy consumption. Reuse saves energy by reducing raw material acquisition requirements, limiting production of new packagings and eliminating much of the transportation-related impacts associated with each of these functions.
- Reduces solid waste production. Solid wastes are generated during each phase of the production process, from the extraction of raw materials to the fabrication of new packagings. Most of these wastes are reduced or eliminated when industrial packagings are reused.
- Reduces atmospheric and waterborne emissions. Atmospheric and waterborne wastes are generated as part of the production process. Significant portions of such wastes are eliminated by packaging reuse.
What is the Impact of Industrial and Transport Packaging Reuse on Greenhouse Gas Emissions?
In the United States, it is estimated that total greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by approximately 2 billion pounds (900,000 tons) per year, based on the amount of reusable packaging already in use. RIPA believes this number could be significantly increased if industrial packaging users made concerted efforts to use greater numbers of reusable packagings.
*ASTM D 996-95 (E 01), Terminology of Packaging and Distribution Environments