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This interview was published in Logistics Business magazine, 09/2022
The road to net-zero carbon emissions in transport packaging is a hard one – but technology can help.
■ by Jennifer Stead, INFORM GmbH
Fact: it can be a struggle to visualize and understand the true scale when discussing one ton or one kilogram of CO. So, let’s start at the beginning. Trees absorb and store CO from our atmosphere, which is why they are seen by many as the silver bullet to offset emissions and to fight climate change. The rate of carbon absorption – or sequestration if you want to use the scientific term – depends on the type of tree, its age, and location. Broadleaves, for example, sequester more than conifers.
That said, the average annual value for a mid-sized tree may vary between 10 and 25kg CO, depending on region and climate. For our purposes, let’s assume an absorption rate of 20kg CO per year. That roughly equates to a 200km drive in a fuel-efficient compact car. A mixed-age forest of one hectare – that is a square of 100m by 100m – can accommodate up to 1,000 trees, which equals 13 tons of CO per year. This, in turn, equals the annual emission of 1 US citizen, or 1.5 Germans, or 2 Chinese. What does all this have to do with Returnable Transport Packaging (RTP)?
There are about 135 million plastic RTPs circulating in Europe. They come in different sizes, shapes, and colours, but the majority are made from polypropylene (PP). Polypropylene is a durable material, easy to clean, lightweight, maintains its mechanical properties over multiple uses, and – very important – it is 100 percent recyclable.
To produce 1 ton of polypropylene, 1.7 tons of CO are emitted. If you use recycled polypropylene, the number goes down to roughly 1 ton of CO. A box with a size of 60 cm x 40 cm can weigh 3kg or more, depending on height. This means, to produce just the raw material for one box, 5.1 kg CO are emitted.
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