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Huhtamäki announces independent study reveals shifting in-store QSR dining to reusable tableware to be equivalent to adding extra 1 million petrol cars on Europe’s roads

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Huhtamäki announces independent study reveals shifting in-store QSR dining to reusable tableware to be equivalent to adding extra 1 million petrol cars on Europe’s roads

October 06, 2021 - 10:41

ESPOO, Finland, Oct. 6, 2021 (Press Release) -Independent study reveals that shifting in-store QSR dining to reusable tableware would be equivalent to adding an extra 1 million petrol cars on Europe’s roads

The publication of an updated Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) comparing single use and reusable tableware is a major contribution to understanding the drivers to achieving low carbon circularity and ensuring that decisions which affect the future of Europe are evidence-based.

The LCA, commissioned by the European Paper Packaging Alliance (EPPA) and conducted by Ramboll, a leading global independent engineering, design and consultancy company, compared the environmental impacts of reusable and paper-based single-use tableware systems used for dine-in in European Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) today. It found, that contrary to widely-held perceptions, reusable tableware has a significantly higher environmental impact than paper-based single use systems in areas which crucially impact climate change.

Re-usable tableware systems generate 2.8 times more CO2-equivalent emissions than the paper-based single-use system and consume 3.4 times more freshwater. 

Using newly available data, Ramboll updated its original study released in January 2021, and concludes that that the reusable tableware system generates 2.8 times more CO2-equivalent emissions than the paper-based single-use system and consumed 3.4 times more freshwater in today’s QSRs. The reason is the amount of energy and freshwater required to wash and dry used tableware and meet the standards needed to prevent cross-contamination, which is of even more importance during a global pandemic.

Subsequent analysis of these results showed that the full climate impact of shifting in-store dining to reusables in European QSRs would be equivalent to adding an extra 1 million petrol cars on Europe’s roads. The amount of freshwater used to wash the reusable tableware would equal the freshwater needs of a city of 750,000 people. This goes against the objectives set both by the EU’s Green Agenda as well as the UN’s SDG and is of grave concern as it impedes the real need to address climate change today and the progress the packaging industry is making in developing environmentally viable packaging solutions. Huhtamaki calls on the EU and other global institutions to use evidence such as the Ramboll LCA to drive its decision making to ensure the best possible solutions for both consumers and environment.

The updated study also found that increasing the recycling of paper-based single-use items further reduces their environmental impact, particularly compared to many reusable tableware products that either cannot be recycled or have low levels of recycling. For example, by raising the recycling rate of paper-based single-use tableware from the 30% used in the Ramboll study to 70%, the freshwater-consumption advantage of paper-based packaging increases from 3.4 to 228 times better.

Eric Le Lay, President of Huhtamaki’s Fiber Foodservice Europe-Asia-Oceania business segment and current President of EPPA said, “Despite widely held common misconceptions, today’s scientific data gives clear evidence that reusables carry significant environmental burden. Based on real life data, there is no longer any doubt that paper-based single-use food packaging delivers significantly better environmental outcomes; supporting public health and European consumers. We should stop the guessing game looking at environmental viable solutions, trust the science and work together to make our economies circular. With the right infrastructure for recycling paper-based single use packaging will help Europe achieve low carbon circularity and its Green Deal goals.”

About Huhtamaki

Huhtamaki is a key global provider of sustainable packaging solutions for consumers around the world, enabling wellbeing and convenience. Our innovative products protect on-the-go and on-the-shelf food and beverages, ensuring hygiene and safety, and help prevent food waste. We embed sustainability in everything we do. We are committed to achieving carbon neutral production and designing all our products to be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2030.

We are a participant in the UN Global Compact and as of 2020, we received an MSCI ESG Rating of A, on a scale of AAA ─ CCC. To play our part in managing climate change, we have set science-based targets that have been approved and validated by the Science Based Targets initiative. Huhtamaki has been awarded the Gold medal by EcoVadis for performance in sustainability.

With 100 years of history and a strong Nordic heritage we operate in 36 countries and 84 sites around the world. Our values Care Dare Deliver guide our decisions and help our team of 19,700 employees make a difference where it matters. Our 2020 net sales totaled EUR 3.3 billion. Huhtamaki Group is headquartered in Espoo, Finland and our parent company, Huhtamäki Oyj, is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd.